The Straits Times
Published on Dec 29, 2012

Death of New Delhi gang-rape victim sparks angry reactions

New Delhi police prepare for more anti-rape protests


NEW DELHI - She was called "Brave Heart" by some Indian media and her plight has touched millions of people in India and overseas who flooded social networking websites with well wishes and criticisms of her attackers.

To her family, she is their hope for a better future.

The 23-year-old gang-rape victim in New Delhi came from a poor family. Her father works as a loader at the Delhi airport, earning a paltry wage of 5000 rupees (S$111) a month. He had sold off a piece of his land to educate his daughter, who studied physiotherapy.

Of her two brothers, one has just graduated from school, while the other is still a student.

As people in India woke up to the news that the young woman had passed away in Singapore, reactions started pouring in through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. People expressed their sorrow and hoped for speedy justice for the woman.

"Rest in peace ... India's daughter ... exemplary punishment and nothing else ... for the culprits,'' said Aakash Maharan on Facebook.

Strong reactions also came from India's leadership, which has been under pressure to tighten laws, provide improve security for women and ensure stronger implementation of existing laws.

New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said she was "shamed that such an attack took place in India's capital city, which has the highest incidents of rape among the metro cities in India".

"The passing away of this brave girl comes as a truly terrible and tragic news. She fought very courageously and in the process shook our conscience,'' said Ms Diskhit.

"This is a shameful moment for me not just as chief minister but also a citizen. Our hearts are burning with grief and shame ... this is not a moment for speeches but deep reflection among ourselves ... on what we should do in future so that no such incident takes place anywhere else most of all in Delhi.''

Mr R.P.N. Singh, junior minister for home affairs in the federal government, said he was "heartbroken''.

"I am heartbroken because of the kind of struggle she put up to survive. I can assure the family that the government will take steps to ensure her killers get the harshest punishment in the quickest of time. The government will work overtime to ensure no other citizen undergoes this kind of trauma,'' said Mr Singh.

The victim, who was gang raped by six men on Dec 16, passed away early Saturday morning at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, where she was flown to by the Indian government for further medical treatment.

New Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar asked people to maintain calm across the city, according to a statement from his office.

The area around the India Gate monument and 10 metro stations have been closed to the public, in anticipation of protests which have taken place everyday since the attack on the woman  was made public.

New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said police were allowing people to assemble at the Jantar Mantar and Ramlila grounds, the main areas allotted for protests in New Delhi. 

The Delhi police have also decided to invoke the murder charge against the six men accused following her death.

In Delhi where women face harassment regularly on public transport, particularly buses, angry protestors laid seige to the iconic India Gate and its surrounding last weekend, demanding justice for the victim and better protection for women.

Many protestors and politicians also sought the death penalty for the six men arrested by the police for the rape of the girl. In India the maximum punishment for rape is life imprisonment.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. But Delhi has the worst rape statistics among all the metros, with 635 sexual assault this year, up from 568 in 2011.