The 23-year-old medical student, 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 India’s prime minister that social change is needed.
The six suspects, from a slum in south Delhi, are held in connection with the December 16 attack. They were charged with murder following her death, police said. The maximum penalty for murder is death.
“We have booked all the six accused under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. It is a non-bailable offence which carries the death sentence,” police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told AFP.
Dharmendra Kumar, one of Delhi’s most senior police officers, said formal charges were expected to be filed by January 3.
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.
New Delhi has chartered an aircraft to fly the student’s body back to India on Saturday, along with members of her family, T C A Raghavan, the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore, told reporters. The woman had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition on Thursday.
Gagging order on funeral coverage
The Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) has asked news channels to refrain from covering the Delhi gang-rape victim’s funeral, according to a report in The Times of India.
In its guidelines, the editors’ body has asked news channels not to show any visuals of the funeral or shots of the victim’s home or family.
“In view of the need to protect the identity, dignity and privacy of the deceased and her family, the BEA has asked the channels not to cover the funeral and not to show any visuals of the funeral,” BEA general secretary N K Singh said.
Flood of reactions
The protests forced political leaders to confront some truths about the treatment of women in India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the need of the hour is to make India a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in.
Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi directly addressed 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,” Sonia 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.”
According to The Hindu newspaper, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi broke his silence on the ghastly incident and called for further introspection.
“My heart goes out to the family of the young girl and millions of young Indians, families who work, hope and pray for a better India. We as a nation must reflect on the events of the days gone by,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2012.