In a tale that could haunt your thoughts for years—and for that we apologize—we just learned that India might execute the first women since its independence in 1947.
The story of Anjanabai Gavit, her two daughters Seema Gavit and Renuka Shinde, and Renuka's husband, Kiran, reads like depraved pulp fiction.
What began as a twisted personal vendetta devolved into a harrowing six-year petty crime ring marked by kidnapping and child torture. In 1990, Anjanabai's husband—Mohan—announced he was leaving her to marry another woman by the name of Pratima. Together with her daughters and Kiran, Anjanabai plotted to kidnap Pratima's daughter. They succeeded.
During the next six years, the twisted foursome kidnapped 14 children and have been convicted of murdering five of them. (Though some reports claim Kiran went on record confessing to the murder of 10.) The snatched children were trained to pick-pocket, beg and serve as a buffer against police suspicion:
Once in 1990, Renuka was caught by people, when her son Ashish was with her. She misled the mob by asking how a mother with a kid could indulge in a theft. Thus gaining sympathy, she managed to escape. When caught, they would start beating up the kid and throw it at the feet of the people to earn sympathy. Some times the kid would die of a fatal injury. In others the kids were killed by the Gavits to avoid further risk. -Kiran, in a courtroom explanation
Once their usefulness and fearful obedience ran its course, the children were disposed of in sickening manners: One child was beaten to death with a rod, while another was chopped up and placed in a small bag while the sisters watched a movie and then disposed of the infant's body in the women's restroom.
Finally, in 1996, the sisters—at their mother's bidding—decided to further punish their father. They kidnapped the second daughter—Kranti—he had with his new wife; Anjana murdered her and dumped the body into a nearby field. While Anjana herself had more than 125 counts of petty theft lodged against her, it wasn't until this final kidnapping that police became privy to the larger sicker picture; Kranti's mother alerted the authorities as to her "suspicions" about her husband's ex-wife and all the pieces began to fit together.
Seema, Renuka and Anjanabai were arrested in 2006 and convicted of 13 kidnappings and 10 murders, but were only found guilty for the killing of five; they were sentenced to death in 2001. Renuka's husband Kiran was granted immunity for his testimony against his counterparts and Anjanabai died in jail from a brain hemorrhage some 14 months after being arrested.
At the time of their sentencing, Anjanabai and her daughters represented the fourth women in history to receive the death penalty sentence; now they're poised to be the very first women in history to actually have their sentence carried out. Their mercy plea was just rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee, and it seems their hanging is imminent. While reports state that in proper sociopathic fashion the women showed "no reaction" when sentenced, their lawyers are still actively fighting against their fate.
The sisters plan to appeal the rejection of their mercy plea before India’s high court today, insisting that their mental health has been compromised during the 13-year "delay" between the sentencing and their actual execution. "The Supreme Court has said if there is too much delay it can have a bad effect on the mental health of the convicted people,” said Manik Mulik, one of the the sisters' lawyers. The sisters are arguing that the President should have decided upon their mercy plea within three months of their petition, instead of more than five years; they hold out hope that between this fact, their young age at the time of the crimes (15 and 17) and their docile reputations while in prison, their death sentence could be commuted to a life term in prison.
While sympathy for the sisters is nearly impossible to muster, there is still serious outcry against the death penalty as a means of justice at all; the hanging of Seema and Renuka surfaces our centuries-long struggle with punishing barbarity with barbarity. They've filed another petition with the Madras High Court, which is set to be reviewed tomorrow. It's still unclear whether the sisters will swing.
Will only an eye for an eye suffice for crimes this heinous?