India’s moment of truth as New Delhi gang rapists face execution

Published: December 29, 2012

DEAN NELSON
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

Indian protesters hold candles during a rally in New Delhi late Dec. 29, 2012, after the death of a gang-rape victim from the Indian capital. Indian leaders appealed for calm and security forces headed off fresh unrest by locking down New Delhi after a student who was savagely gang-raped died in a Singapore hospital. Sajjad Hussain/Getty Images

Two weeks ago today, 23-year-old “Nirbhaya” was the apple of her parents’ eyes. She had recently qualified as a physiotherapist, was working as an intern in a Delhi hospital, and served as a role model to her two younger brothers.

Her parents, who had taken out loans to fund her studies, were a rare model Indian family in which the daughter came first and led the way.

This weekend, their hopes for her ended when she finally succumbed to the horrific injuries she suffered in a gang rape that shocked the country. Surgeons in Singapore, to where she had been flown for specialist treatment, said she had suffered “severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain.”

By the time the chartered plane carrying her body arrived at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport last night, she had become known as “India’s daughter” and “the Braveheart” for her struggle to survive and her determination to see her rapists – now her murderers – prosecuted.

The savagery of the attack and the government’s weak response had provoked demonstrations throughout India, continuing yesterday, over the perceived indifference of the country’s ruling elite and its failure to protect women. “It’s a much bigger problem with our society,” said one protester, Aditi Gupta, 25, a commercial pilot. “We have not gone beyond the traditions of thousands of years in which women were inferior to men, and we have to change that.”

Nirbhaya’s ordeal began when she and her male companion boarded a private bus on Sunday Dec. 16, on their way home from a cinema in Saket, South Delhi, and were attacked by six men who were the only other passengers on board. The men initially abused her for being out at night with a man who wasn’t her husband. They then took turns to rape her and beat her with an iron rod, in an assault lasting more than an hour as the bus travelled, the atrocities inside hidden from onlookers by tinted windows and closed curtains.

After the victims both fell unconscious, they were thrown out of the bus on a flyover and left for dead. The bus driver is among those who have been arrested. When they arrived at Delhi’s Safdarjung government hospital, doctors found she had suffered severe internal injuries that could have been caused by the iron rod. In between operations to remove more than 90 per cent of her intestines, she managed to give two long interviews to police and a magistrate, and spoke to her family of her determination that her rapists be brought to justice.

She later suffered a heart attack and breathing difficulties before doctors decided to send her to Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital, where her parents stayed at her bedside. Announcing her death, Kelvin Loh, chief executive officer of the hospital, said: “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.”

Yesterday her body, lying in a gold and yellow coffin selected by Indian diplomats, was driven in a hearse to the airport. The Indian government chartered an aircraft to fly the coffin back to India, along with members of her family, said T.C.A Raghavan, the Indian high commissioner to Singapore.

Dr. Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, said he was “deeply saddened” by her death but called for protesters to channel their anger into a “dispassionate debate” over how India can make women safer rather than pursue “sectional interests and agenda.”

“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,” he said. “It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channel these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action.”

Yesterday, armed police were bussed into the city centre to protect Delhi Gate, the public parkland in front of the government’s ministerial offices and the President’s House, along with the homes of prominent political leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, the Congress leader. Sheila Dixit, Delhi’s Congress chief minister, arrived at the Jantar Mantar protest ground to show her support for demonstrators but was chased away by an aggressive mob.

Later, Gandhi directly addressed the 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,” Gandhi 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.”

A legal counsellor who had comforted Nirbhaya’s parents while their daughter was in Safdarjung hospital in Delhi told the First Post news website that they were a tight-knit family.

“They had invested everything in their daughter,” she said. “She would have become a physiotherapist and gone on to support her family.”

Her father had remained hopeful that she would recover, and had asked politicians who were visiting to show their support whether they could help to find her a job when she recovered.

Her mother, however, was “shattered.”

“In a situation like this, you lose faith in God, in everything,” the counsellor added. “The mother was oblivious to who was coming or going.”

Official statistics show that Delhi is India’s “rape capital,” with 414 rapes in 2010 and more than 600 this year. Only one in three reported cases ends in a conviction. Many police officers believe that victims are to blame, and campaigners say victims are so afraid of the police that only one in 50 rapes is registered. Brinda Karat, a veteran Communist MP, said it was a shame that it took “a death of such a brave, healthy woman to wake India and wake up this government.”

Neeti Bhargava, 33, a banker, said although there had been many rapes and gang rapes in recent years, she had decided to protest because Nirbhaya’s ordeal was “one of the most heinous things Delhi has seen. It seems the government is not taking any action to appease the citizens right now,” she said. Since the attack and the protests that followed it, in which a policeman died and a journalist was killed, the government has announced a review of rape laws and measures to reduce sexual assaults. The six men alleged to have raped and killed Nirbhaya will face a fast-track court case in the next few weeks, accused of murder. If convicted, they will face execution.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,





Featured

WEST VANCOUVER SOCCER DESI

West Van barber bringing joy of soccer to refugee kids

LARISSA CAHUTE THE PROVINCE When West Vancouver’s Michel Ibrahim travelled to Lebanon more than 20 years ago, he was shocked to find what few resources…
Continue Reading »

health check

Parents of six-year-old girl ‘horrified’ after botched vaccination exposes her to HIV

GORDON MCINTYRE VANCOUVER DESI A six-year-old girl is in danger of having contacted HIV after a routine vaccination went awry in Fort St. James earlier…
Continue Reading »

CIVIC ELECTIONS

Battleground Surrey: Which mayoral candidate can stop the carnage?

CASSIDY OLIVIER VANCOUVER DESI The streets leading to the Newton Arena are littered with debris from the previous night’s storm. Overflow from the downpour swiftly…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

TransCanada files application to NEB for Energy East crude pipeline

THE CANADIAN PRESS CALGARY – TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) says its regulatory application for the proposed Energy East pipeline is a massive document with 30,000 pages…
Continue Reading »

TransCanada files application to NEB for Energy East crude pipeline

THE CANADIAN PRESS CALGARY – TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) is filing its regulatory application for the proposed Energy East pipeline today. TransCanada says the document being…
Continue Reading »

Kuwait plays gracious but uneasy host as Canadian jets join anti-ISIL campaign

ISIL-Cda-Kuwait, 2nd Writethru Correction By Murray Brewster THE CANADIAN PRESS KUWAIT CITY – Canadian warplanes have taken up position in Kuwait, a country straining in…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Smart 21 communities

Surrey named among World’s Smart21 Communities of 2015

VANCOUVER DESI SURREY, B.C. – The Intelligent Community Forum has named the City of Surrey as one of the world’s Smart21 Communities of 2015. As one…
Continue Reading »

elephant crushes woman to death

Elephant crushes woman to death at India’s nature reserve

CEN AGENCY A school teacher was crushed to death by an elephant when it knocked her over with its trunk and then stood on her….
Continue Reading »

Crime-Vancouver-BC

Surrey Six murders: Allegations of weekend sex party, ‘sordid’ affair between investigator and potential witness rock case

KEITH FRASER VANCOUVER DESI The Surrey Six case heard details Tuesday of allegations of sexual improprieties involving a second senior RCMP officer. When charges were…
Continue Reading »

CBC-sexual behaviour-lawsuit

Jian Ghomeshi’s CBC lawsuit is hopeless — even if he’s telling the truth

HOWARD LEVITT FINANCIAL POST Jian Ghomeshi’s $50-million lawsuit against the CBC has everything to do with strategy and PR — but nothing to do with…
Continue Reading »

Wedding Canopy Toran

Significance of Toran and Rangoli

KIM TREHAN VANCOUVER DESI  Hello! Last week, Indians across the globe celebrated a festival called Diwali.  Although the festival itself has no significance to weddings, there…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Ismaili musicians - Aga Khan foundation

Salim-Sulaiman show underlines Vancouver’s rising Bollywood cachet

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI With big-time Bollywood composers Salim-Sulaiman set to kick off their North American tour at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday, it…
Continue Reading »

Shah Rukh Khan

Burdwan blast: Shah Rukh Khan prays for better times for Bengal

IANS Kolkata – Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, West Bengal’s brand ambassador, Wednesday expressed his unwillingness to talk about the terror blast in Burdwan, but…
Continue Reading »

Ayesha Takia Azmi vegan

Chic Bollywood actress Ayesha Takia poses with a chick for PETA (w/gallery)

IANS New Delhi – Ahead of World Vegan Day on Nov 1, actress Ayesha Takia has posed with a fluffy chick for a new ad…
Continue Reading »