Indian Gang Rape Victim Dies; New Delhi Braces for Protests

An Indian woman whose gang rape provoked protests and rare national debate about violence against women in India died in a hospital on Saturday.

A 23-year-old student suffered a brain injury and massive internal damage in the December 16 attack and died in hospital in Singapore. Photo: swarat_ghosh/Flickr

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government was highly criticized and urged to get tougher on crimes against women. That was in contrast to the pitched battles protesters fought with police last weekend.

The police has already has six suspects linked to the attack on the student on a New Delhi bus were charged with murder following her death.

As Reuters reports, authorities are worried about the public reaction to the news of the woman’s death.

Thousands of policemen were deployed, 10 metro stations were closed and some main roads are closed for vehicles in the centre of New Delhi, where protestors have converged since the attack to demand improved women’s rights.

“For some reason, and I don’t really know why, she got through to us,” well-known columnist Nilanjana Roy wrote in a blog on Saturday.

“Our words shriveled in the face of what she’d been subjected to by the six men travelling on that bus, who spent an hour torturing and raping her, savagely beating up her male friend.”

Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling Congress party, directly addressed the protesters, 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.”

Political leaders vowed steps to correct “shameful social attitudes” towards women in the world’s biggest democracy.

“The need of the hour is a dispassionate debate and inquiry into the critical changes that are required in societal attitudes,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement.

“I hope that the entire political class and civil society will set aside narrow sectional interests and agenda to help us all reach the end that we all desire – making India a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in.”

The prime minister also tried to channel the popular outrage in his public statements and assure critics that his government will now take all the necessary steps to improve the safety of women in the country.

“The Congress managers were ham-handed in their handling of the situation that arose after the brutal assault on the girl. The crowd management was poor,” a lawmaker from Singh’s ruling Congress party said on condition of anonymity.

The assaulted woman which was later thrown out of a moving bus, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday.

“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,” Kelvin Loh, chief executive officer of the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore said in a statement announcing her death from multiple injuries.

The student’s body is soon to be returned back to India via an aircraft, with members of her family on the board, T.C.A. Raghavan, the Indian high commissioner to Singapore, told reporters.

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