Murder charges as rape victim dies
Six men arrested over the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus a fortnight ago have had the charges against them upgraded to murder after the woman died in hospital.
Tens of thousands held a peaceful protest outside police barricades at Jantar Mantar, near the centre of Delhi on Saturday. At the same time, students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, in the city's south, led a silent march through Delhi's streets.
Thousands of police were stationed across central Delhi, blocking streets leading to Rajpath and Raisina Hill, the epicentre of protests last week. Ten Metro stations were closed, and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, called for calm.
Call for the death penalty ... schoolgirls in Ahmadabad hold placards during a prayer ceremony to mourn the death of the rape victim. Photo: AP
The President, Pranab Mukherjee, said: ''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. At the same time, let us resolve that this death will not be in vain.''
The woman, a physiotherapy student from Uttar Pradesh whose name has not been released, succumbed to internal injuries and infection to her lungs and abdomen in a Singapore hospital early on Saturday. Her intestines were removed because of severe injuries caused by an iron rod used during the rape. She underwent three abdominal operations but also suffered brain injuries and cardiac arrest.
The chief executive of Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Dr Kelvin Loh, said she ''died peacefully'' just before 5am.
Ready for further protests ... police with shields gather near India Gate in Delhi. Photo: Reuters
''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,'' he said.
The woman's condition had improved in a Delhi hospital during the week. She was conscious and well enough to give a statement to a magistrate. But her condition deteriorated as infection took hold.
Across India there is widespread belief that she was moved to Singapore not for its superior medical facilities but so that she would not die in Delhi, sparking more protests.
Doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences have said the woman was transferred at government direction, not out of medical necessity. ''The question we were asked was whether it would be safe to move her,'' one doctor told The Hindu newspaper. ''The question was not whether there were any deficiencies in treatment that would be met by moving her. She was being given the best possible care.''
Indian media have given the woman pseudonyms, including Amanat, which means ''keepsake'' in Hindi, and Damini, after a Bollywood movie character who fought for justice for a rape victim.
After her death, there were calls for a statue to be erected in Delhi, and for the country's flags to fly at half-mast.
Beyond the sadness there is an underlying rage in Delhi and across India, not only at this attack, but at the treatment of women. Sexual violence is common, particularly in Delhi, which carries the unhappy epithet of the ''rape capital'' of India.
But this attack has exercised the nation like none before it, not just because of its special brutality, nor the fact that it took place in the capital.
The woman's story has been seen as archetypal of modern India, its potential and its problems: hers was a classic tale of aspirational India.
Her father, a poor farmer, had sold all his land, not to raise a dowry so his daughter could be married, but so she could have an education, the first woman in her family to have that opportunity. He told the Speaker of parliament he and his wife would often go without food, or eat only roti bread flavoured with salt, so they could pay for their daughter's studies.
Since the attack much of the country's fury has been directed towards a police force seen as apathetic, corrupt and misogynist, and a political class that often seems uncaring. Senior police are regularly quoted as saying women who are raped are to blame for their attacks, for being out at night, for talking to men or for wearing jeans.
The woman's body was expected to be returned to India overnight. It is believed she will be cremated in Delhi on Sunday morning.