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India Mourns 23-Year-Old Gang Rape Victim

  • Anjana Pasricha

Indians gather next to a makeshift memorial to mourn the death of a 23-year-old gang rape victim, in Bangalore, India , Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.

Indians gather next to a makeshift memorial to mourn the death of a 23-year-old gang rape victim, in Bangalore, India , Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.

The young Indian victim of a brutal gang rape has died in Singapore, where she had been taken for treatment. Thousands of people staged peaceful protests in the Indian capital -- where the incident took place -- despite tight security to prevent mass demonstrations. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the incident has sparked widespread calls for social change.

From people on the street, to the country's top leaders, messages of grief and vows to prevent similar crimes poured in as news spread of the death of the 23-year-old rape victim.

The young woman died early Saturday morning in Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore of severe organ failure, 13 days after she was brutally beaten and raped by a group of men in a moving bus in New Delhi. She had undergone multiple surgeries in the capital before being flown to Singapore Thursday for special treatment.

India's High Commissioner to Singapore T.C.A. Raghavan said the victim's family members were by her side when she died.

"In the end it was the scale of her injuries which proved too much," said Raghavan.

Thousands of people came out into the streets in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi to mourn her death, demand justice for her and safety for women.

The biggest protests were in the capital, where the crime took place. Hundreds of young people gathered at several locations, although authorities closed several metro stations and many roads and deployed hundreds of police to prevent mass demonstrations.

But the protests were quieter than those last week which had turned violent.

In some parts of the city, people marched in silence, others held up placards. They all demanded a safer city and speedier justice for crimes against women. Many shouted slogans. In the evening they lit candles in her memory. The protestors termed it “Black Saturday”.

"We want safety as our first priority"
"We should be able to breathe peacefully and walk on the streets"
“I do not feel safe at all….”
“It is not just about the government, I think the people of this country need to realize that what they have made this country, we have to change this…”

Across the country, ordinary people and media paid tribute to the young girl, calling her "braveheart" and "India's Daughter," and saying her death should be honored by bringing about social change.

There is widespread public outrage against authorities for not doing enough to prevent such crimes and assure safety of women. Murder charges have now been added to the rape charges brought against six suspects in the case.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a statement, said he understood the reactions from a young India that genuinely desires change. He said "It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channelize these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action."

Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said the victim has shaken India's conscience.

"Our hearts are burdened with grief and shame. And this is not a moment for speeches or words, but for deep reflection. I would like each one of you to be calm and peaceful," said Dikshit.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde vowed strict action against the accused.

Shinde says the government will heed public calls for strict punishment for the guilty and ensure that such incidents do not happen again.

Home Secretary R.P.N. Singh said authorities are committed to bringing about change to ensure women's safety.

"The government will work overtime to try and bring about laws and steps that will ensure that no other person, no other citizen of the country has to undergo the same kind of trauma," said Singh.

India's government has been criticized for being slow to understand the outrage that followed the incident, in a country where crimes against women are growing, and where police figures show that rape is among the fastest growing crimes, even though many rapes go unreported.

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