Aruna was just 25 when a KEM hospital contract sweeper brutally raped and strangled her

Tribute pour for Aruna Shanbaug: Indian nurse in coma for 42 years after rape dies

Archana Venkatraman

Thousands of tributes poured in on social media sites from around the world after news broke that Aruna Shanbaug, the Indian nurse who was in coma for 42 years after being brutally raped, passed away today.

Aruna Shanbaug dies after being in coma for 42 years following a brutal rape
Aruna Shanbaug dies after being in coma for 42 years following a brutal rape

Aruna Shanbaug died at 8.30am on Monday after she was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and put on life support at Mumbai's KEM hospital, the hospital's spokesman said. Although, the nurse was fed through the nose over the last several decades, she developed pneumonia six days ago which resulted in her death.

On 27 November 1973, a KEM hospital ward sweeper brutally raped her and eventually strangled her with metal chains and left her alone in wounds to die.

Aruna Shanbaug when she was young
Aruna Shanbaug when she was young

Aruna was just 25 when the incident occurred.

The nurse survived after being rescued but has since spent the rest of her life in vegetative state in the hospital. She was force fed twice a day for survival.

According to a report on The Times of India, shockingly, Shanbaug’s attacker, Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki, was charged for murder and robbery of Aruna’s earrings in 1974 and jailed for a short time, but he was not charged for rape.

Sohanlal Walmiki served six years in prison, after being awarded a seven year sentence.

Condolences and tributes

RIP Aruna Shanbaug was trending on social media site Twitter in the UK and in India. Journalist and author Pinki Virani, who wrote Aruna's Story, a biography on the nurse's plight, told media professionals that Aruna had died 42 years ago and that "today it's only her mortal coil that gave away".

The book Aruna's Story released on the day Aruna died
The book Aruna's Story released on the day Aruna died

Influential journalist Nikhil Wagle said on Twitter, "People got to know Aruna's story through Pinki Virani's book and Meena Karnik's translation. It raised several questions about rape and euthanasia."

There was an outpouring of sympathy and tributes for Aruna Shanbaug on Facebook and Twitter. One tweet said, "represents everything that is wrong with India's society" while another said Aruna's tragic and horrific story "will always shame India".

In 2011, biographer Virani filed the case that Aruna should be allowed to die as she was "virtually a dead person" but the Supreme Court rejected her plea. Aruna Shanbaug's death today has sparked a debate around not just rape but also euthanasia laws in India. 

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