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Indian president and prime minister call for calm after death of gang-rape victim

They vow to take tough action to address injustice

Published on Dec 29, 2012 10:27 AM
 
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during the meeting of the 57th National Development Council (NDC) in New Delhi on Dec 27, 2012. Mr Singh says he is "deeply saddened" to hear that the 23-year-old Indian medical student has died from the injuries sustained in a gang rape. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI - India’s top leaders have appealed for calm following the death of the 23-year-old victim of a brutal attack and gang rape in New Delhi.

“I request everyone to maintain peace and calm and call upon the authorities to take all necessary steps to bring the perpetrators of this ghastly crime to justice,” President Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement on Saturday.

"She was a brave and courageous girl who fought till the very last minute for her dignity and her life. She is a true hero and symbolises the best in Indian youth and women ... The nation will mourn the passing of this brave daughter of India," he said.

He added that all steps should be taken to bring those behind this "ghastly crime" to justice so that her death would not be not in vain. "We will do everything possible to ensure that such an incident never happens again."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also said he was "deeply saddened" to hear the news of the death of the young woman.

He said he joined the nation in conveying his condolences to her family and friends. "I pray for the peace of the departed soul and hope that her family will have the strength to bear this grievous loss," he said in a statement.

"I want to tell them and the nation that while she may have lost her battle for life, it is up to us all to ensure that her death will not have been in vain.

"We have already seen the emotions and energies this incident has generated. These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change. It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channelise these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action."

Mr Singh also urged calm as news of the death broke as India slept. The woman's brutal rape by six men had moved hundreds of young Indians to stage protests asking for speedy justice for her, and safety for women.

The student died at 4.45am on Saturday in Singapore's Mt Elizabeth Hospital, where she had been flown to on Thursday morning to seek further treatment.

The Singapore specialists who treated her said she was in an extremely critical condition when admitted and despite efforts, her condition continued to deteriorate. Her body has been sent to a mortuary and will be flown back to India, together with her parents and two brothers who came with her.

Mr Singh said there needs to be "a dispassionate debate and inquiry into the critical changes that are required in societal attitudes". He said the Government is examining, "on priority basis, the penal provisions that exist for such crimes and measures 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 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."

gnirmala@sph.com.sg