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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Delhi rape victim's body being brought back, killers to be tried for murder

cleanmediatoday.com


Delhi rape victim's body being brought back, killers to be tried for murder
Clean Media Correspondent

New Delhi, Dec 29 (CMC) A woman whose gang rape sparked protests and a national debate about violence against women in India died of her injuries on Saturday, prompting a security lockdown in New Delhi and an acknowledgement from the prime minister that social change is needed. The six suspects held in
connection with the Dec 16 attack on the 23-year-old medical student on a New Delhi bus were charged with murder following her death, police said. The maximum penalty for murder is death.

Earlier, bracing for a new wave of protests, authorities deployed thousands of policemen, closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in the heart of New Delhi, where demonstrators have converged since the attack to demand improved women's rights.

Despite efforts to cordon off the city centre, more than 1,000 people gathered for peaceful protests at two locations. Some protesters shouted for justice, others for the death penalty for the rapists.

People started gathering at Jantar Mantar in the Capital at around 10am and sat in silence.

Aam Aadmi Party leaders Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishwas also joined the protest along with some of their supporters with their mouth tied with black cloth.

Aam Aadmi Party National Convenor Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "Her death is a matter of shame and sorrow for all of us. Let's resolve that we will not let her death go in vain.

"Aren't we all responsible for her death? Can we all now do something so that half of humanity starts feeling safe amongst us?" he said.

The mourners protested against the security lock down of India Gate and Raisina Hill where violent demonstrations were witnessed last weekend over the rape.

"The government is not even allowing mourning of the death. This is insensitivity. There is complete lock down. You have the metro stations shut. You have a road completely blocked. This is undemocratic," a protester Sunil said.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Lucknow. In Hyderabad, a group of women marched to demand severe punishment for the rapists. Protests were also held in the cities of Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai.

The demonstrations were peaceful, unlike last weekend, when police used batons, water cannon and teargas in clashes with protesters.

'Her death will not be in vain'
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led the tributes to the victim but urged protesters to channel their anger constructively.

Singh said he was aware of the emotions the attack has stirred and that it was up to all Indians to ensure that the young woman's death will not have been in vain.

Sonia Gandhi, the powerful leader of the ruling Congress party, directly addressed the protesters in a rare broadcast on state television, saying that as a mother and a woman she understood their grievances.

"Your voice has been heard," Gandhi said.

"It deepens our determination to battle the pervasive and the shameful social attitudes that allow men to rape and molest women with such impunity."

The government has chartered an aircraft to fly the student's body back to India on Saturday, along with members of her family, TCA Raghavan, the Indian high commissioner to Singapore, told reporters.

The body was taken to a Hindu casket firm in Singapore for embalming. Indian diplomats selected a gold and yellow coffin to transport her home, staff at the firm told reporters.

The victim and a male friend were returning home from the cinema by bus when, media reports say, six men on the bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman.

Media said a rod was used in the rape, causing internal injuries. Both were thrown from the bus. The male friend survived.

Six suspects, from a slum in south Delhi, are in custody.

Analysts say the death of the woman could change that, although it is too early to say whether the protesters calling for government action to better safeguard women can sustain their momentum through to national elections due in 2014.

Braveheart's fight
According to doctors in Singapore, the student lost her fight for life at 4:45am (20.45 GMT), nearly two weeks after the brutal attack that horrified India.

"She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain," Kelvin Loh, the chief executive of Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said in a statement.

"She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome."

Her body is to be flown back to India later in the day, accompanied by her parents who were at her bedside when she was pronounced dead at 4:45am (2045 GMT).

After boarding a bus with tinted windows on December 16, the student was attacked by six drunk men who took it in turns to rape her and assaulted her with an iron bar before throwing her and her male companion off the moving vehicle.

She was airlifted to hospital in Singapore on Thursday.

Singh said he was deeply saddened by the death and that protests sparked by the case were "understandable".

"We have already seen the emotions and energies this incident has generated," he wrote on his website.

"These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change."

The police have been heavily criticised for their hardline tactics in trying to quash the protests, including the frequent use of teargas and water cannon.

Neeraj Kumar, Delhi's police commissioner, urged people to maintain calm across the city as his office announced that the area around the India Gate monument -- the epicentre of the protests -- would be sealed off.

Ten downtown metro stations were also closed to the public while large numbers of roadblocks were set up on roads leading to government buildings.

Many of the security reinforcements who had been drafted in were women, following a pledge by the government to have a rethink about policing.

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit also appealed for calm and pledged "solid steps will be taken very soon" to protect women in the capital.

The government has had to fend off claims that the victim was transferred to prevent her from dying on Indian soil and thus further inflaming tensions here.

However, Raghavan said the decision was taken on medical grounds after "consultations between the medical team treating her in Delhi with the surgeons and physicians in Singapore".

The envoy also spoke in a press conference of the ordeal endured by the family of the victim, who hail from a rural part of Uttar Pradesh.

"They have borne this loss with a great deal of courage and fortitude and understanding," Raghavan said.

"They have repeatedly asked me to say how inspired they are by the many messages of support and condolences they have received. And also this reinforces their view that the death of their child will lead to a better future for all women in India and in Delhi."

Her ordeal began after she boarded a school bus that a group of six young men were taking for a joyride after drinking heavily, according to police and prosecutors.

News of her death in Singapore spread rapidly back home via social media.

"She experienced hell on earth and we should demand justice for her," said Rawatmal Dhulia, a trader on an overnight train from Rajasthan to Delhi who broke the news to his fellow passengers.

Six men who had already been arrested over the assault are now expected to be charged with murder, a crime which can carry the death penalty.

Her body was carried out of the hospital in a black bag by three workers, who placed it into a police van, after which it was driven to a morgue.

The decision to fly her out of India by air ambulance was taken at a meeting of Singh's cabinet on Wednesday and the government had promised to pay all her medical bills.

As news of the victim's death reached New Delhi early Saturday, hundreds of policemen sealed off the high-security India Gate area in anticipation of more protests.

The area is home to the president's palace, the prime minister's office and key defense, external affairs and home ministries.

The area had seen battles between protesters and police for days after the attack.

Ten metro stations in the vicinity also were closed Saturday, said Rajan Bhagat, the New Delhi police spokesman.

The protesters are demanding stronger protection for women and the death penalty for rape, which is now punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment.

Women face daily harassment across India, ranging from catcalls on the streets, groping and touching in public transport to rape.

Singh said he understands the angry reaction to the attack and hopes all Indians will work together to make appropriate changes.

"These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change," the prime minister said in a statement Saturday.

"It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channel these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action."

He said the government was examining the penalties for crimes such as rape "to enhance the safety and security of women."

"I hope that the entire political class and civil society will set aside narrow sectional interests and agendas to help us all reach the end that we all desire — making India a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in," Singh said.

Mamta Sharma, head of the state-run National Commission for Women, said the "time has come for strict laws" to stop violence against women.

"The society has to change its mindset to end crimes against women," she said.

Several celebrities reacted with sadness Saturday over the woman's death.

Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan tweeted, "Her body has passed away, but her soul shall forever stir our hearts."

Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the government's only concern was to ensure the victim received "the best treatment possible".

Singh has ordered an official inquiry into the gangrape and new laws to protect women as well as stiffer penalties for the worst sex crimes.

And he said Delhi police would soon launch a drive to recruit more female officers as a confidence-building measure.

The government has also announced plans to post the photos, names and addresses of convicted rapists on official websites to publicly shame them.

The campaign will begin in Delhi, which has been dubbed India's "rape capital".

The Delhi gangrape has shone the spotlight on a crime that occurs on a daily basis in India, with most such assaults taking place in rural areas.

Policemen gather at the epicenter of previous protests the near India Gate in New Delhi. Reuters

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government has been battling criticism that it was tone-deaf to the outcry and heavy handed in its response to the protests in the Indian capital.

"It is deeply saddening and just beyond words. The police and government definitely have to do something more," said Sharanya Ramachandran, an Indian national working as an engineer in Singapore.

"They should bring in very severe punishment for such cases. They should start recognising that it is a big crime."

"Significant brain injuries"
The Singapore hospital said earlier that the woman had suffered "significant brain injury" and was surviving against the odds. She had already undergone three abdominal operations before being flown to Singapore.

Protests over the lack of safety for women erupted across India after the attack, culminating last weekend in pitched battles between police and protesters in the heart of New Delhi.

New Delhi has been on edge since the weekend clashes.

Hundreds of policemen have been deployed on the streets of the capital and streets leading to the main protest site, the India Gate war memorial, have been shut for long periods, severely disrupting traffic in the city of 16 million.

Commentators and sociologists say the rape has tapped into a deep well of frustration that many Indians feel over what they see as weak governance and poor leadership on social and economic issues.

Many protesters have complained that Singh's government has done little to curb the abuse of women in the country of 1.2 billion.

A global poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in June found that India was the worst place to be a woman because of high rates of infanticide, child marriage and slavery.

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures.

Government data show the number of reported rape cases in the country rose by nearly 17% between 2007 and 2011.

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