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Indian gang rape victim dies; New Delhi braces for protests

NEW DELHI/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - An Indian woman whose gang rape in New Delhi triggered violent protests died of her injuries on Saturday in a Singapore hospital, bringing a security lockdown in Delhi and recognition from India's prime minister that social change is needed.

Bracing for a new wave of protests, Indian authorities closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in the heart of New Delhi, where demonstrators have converged since the attack to demand improved women's rights. About 100 people staged a peaceful protest on Saturday morning.

The 23-year-old medical student, severely beaten, raped and thrown out of a moving bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday for specialist treatment.

The attack has sparked an intense national debate for the first time about the treatment of women and attitudes towards sex crimes in a country where most rapes go unreported, many offenders go unpunished, and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists.

"We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4:45 a.m. on Dec 29, 2012 (2045 GMT Friday). Her family and officials from the High Commission (embassy) of India were by her side," Mount Elizabeth Hospital Chief Executive Officer Kelvin Loh said in a statement.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was deeply saddened by the death and described the emotions associated with her case as "perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change.

"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," Singh said in a statement.

Delhi's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, said the woman's death was a "shameful moment for me not just as a chief minister but also as a citizen of this country".

The woman, who has not been identified, and a male friend were returning home from the cinema by bus on the evening of December 16 when, media reports say, six men on the bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. media said a rod was used in the rape, causing internal injuries. Both were thrown from the bus. The male friend survived the attack.

The public outcry over the attack has caught the government off-guard. It took a week for Singh to make a public statement on the attack, infuriating many protesters who saw it as a sign of a government insensitive to the plight of women.

The prime minister, a stiff 80-year-old technocrat who speaks in a low monotone, has struggled to channel the popular outrage in his public statements and convince critics that his eight-year-old government would now take concrete steps to improve the safety of women.

Protesters, mostly young middle class students, fought pitched battles with police around the capital last weekend. Police used batons, water cannon and teargas to quell the protests, and sealed off the main protest sites.

1 Comment
January 2, 2013    astramayan@
Mr. Hu Jintao's views on Indian democracy are a real sham. A system which controls what people talk and how many children they can bear should not comment on our democracy. I sympathize with my Chinese friends who can’t give vent to their feelings lest they could be incarcerated, they lop sided development is all too visible in china in Xinjiang region and clamping down on the genuine Tibetan demands.
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Indians gather to mourn the death of the 23-year-old gang rape victim, in New Delhi, India , Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP)

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