The True Story Behind Delhi Crime Is Horrifying

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Content warning: The following posts contains graphic depictions of violence.
One of Netflix's newest series, Delhi Crime, tracks the true story of an event that would change India forever. On December 16, 2012, 23-year-old Jyoti Singh and her friend, Awindra Pratap Pandey, got on a bus after seeing a showing of Life of Pi in South Delhi. The night out was supposed to be a fun break from Singh's studies; she was a medical student who had aspirations of becoming a physiotherapist. Instead, it was the last time she would ever venture outdoors again. Six men, including the bus driver, attacked Pandey before brutally beating and raping Singh for an hour, causing irreparable internal damage, before discarding her battered body on the side of the road.
"They tore my clothes and raped me in turns," Singh told the police, according to The Guardian. "They hit me with an iron rod and bit me on my entire body with their teeth. They took all belongings, my mobile phone, purse, credit card, debit card, watches, etc. Six people raped me in turns for nearly one hour in a moving bus."
Two weeks later, Singh, whom many later referred to as "Nirbhaya" (or "fearless"), died. Pandey, though injured, survived.
Singh's death and the subsequent investigation sparked massive protests and a worldwide conversation. Millions criticised India's political and criminal justice systems and the country's historic dismissal of sexual assault victims and survivors. (Though, people also recognised that these issues weren't exclusive to India and touched the majority of spaces around the globe.)
The horrific case still resonates today and serves as the inspiration for Netflix's new seven-part drama series, Delhi Crime, directed by Richie Mehta.
"We wanted to illustrate and explore a crime that is so incomprehensible to most people that you don't know where to start to think about it. And while you don't want to think about it, it's a topic that needs to be addressed," Mehta said at the International Film Festival and Awards, Macao, according to Variety.
Delhi Crime is a fictionalised series that primarily focuses on the investigation, following the lead officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police Vartika Chaturvedi (portrayed by Shefali Shah and based on the real-life investigator, Chhaya Sharma), as she tries to find justice in a system plagued with bureaucratic issues.
In the real world, police, led by Sharma, successfully found and arrested all six of the rapists. One died in an apparent suicide in jail, one, a juvenile, was sentenced to three years in a probation home, and four were sentenced to death by hanging, a decision that was upheld in 2017. In an interview with the Millennium Post, Sharma called the case the "most satisfying work of my career."
The series, as well as the real-life events, highlight how much work still needs to be done globally to undo toxic, systemic cultural, and political norms inspired by thousands of years of injustice. It's a difficult challenge, and one that doesn't seem lost on Mehta.
"Things I've been dealing with my whole life in the work, it all came together in this," Mehta told The National Post. "Not only the issues on the surface of women's rights and safety and patriarchy and what led to that kind of intense violence — all of those things which were very much on the forefront of the discourse — but other things like the class system and entrenched leftovers from not just the British but kind of a 3,000-year-old tradition of isolation, segregation in society, gender biases... infrastructure in society, how things are set up in an overpopulated environment."
And now, that conversation is coming to a new audience thanks to Mehta.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.

More from TV

R29 Original Series