herald

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Gang rape horror attack that shocked and enraged a nation

IT was one of hundreds of attacks reported in New Delhi each year.

The brutal gang rape and murder of a young medical student in a private bus this month caught authorities and political parties flat-footed.

In the moments before the December 16 attack, the 23-year-old woman from India's urban middle class, who had recently qualified as a trainee physiotherapist in a private hospital, and her male friend, a software engineer, were walking home from a cinema at a shopping mall in south Delhi.

A bus, part of a fleet of privately owned vehicles used as public transport across the city of 16m and known as India's 'rape capital', was at the same time heading toward them.

Slums

Earlier that day, it had ferried school students, but was now empty except for five men and a teenage boy, including its crew, police said. Most of the men were from the city's slums.

One of the six -- all now charged with murder -- lured the couple on to the bus, promising to drop the woman home, police have said.

A few minutes into the ride, her friend (28) grew suspicious when the bus deviated from the supposed route and the men locked the door.

They then taunted her for being out with a man late at night, prompting the friend to intervene.

The attackers beat him with a metal rod, knocking him unconscious, before turning on the woman who had tried to come to his defence. Police say the men admitted torturing and raping the student "to teach her a lesson".

At one point, the bus driver gave the wheel to another of the accused and dragged the woman by the neck to the back of the vehicle and forced himself on her.

The other five then took turns raping her and also driving the bus, keeping it circling through the busy streets of India's capital city, police said.

The woman was raped for nearly an hour before the men pushed a metal rod inside her, severely damaging her internal organs, and then dumped both her and her friend on the roadside, 8km from where they had boarded it.

Robbed of their clothes and belongings, they were found half-naked, bleeding and unconscious later that night.

Cremated

The woman, whose identity has been withheld by police, gave her statement to a magistrate on December 21 in the intensive care unit of Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital. She was undergoing multiple surgical procedures and her condition later began to rapidly worsen.

Ten days after the attack, she was flown to Singapore for specialist treatment, but died in Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital two days later.

Her body was flown back to Delhi and cremated there yesterday in a private ceremony.

Unlike most traditional Indian families, who only send their sons to fee-paying colleges, her parents pinned their hopes on the daughter and took loans to fund her studies.

She was born and brought up in a middle-class Delhi neighbourhood after her family moved to the city more than 20 years ago from India's northern Uttar Pradesh state.

Her male friend recorded his statement to a local court days after the attack and helped police identify the six accused. He left for his hometown in Uttar Pradesh late on Saturday, missing the woman's funeral, local media reported.

Four of the accused, all in custody, lived in the narrow by-lanes of Ravi Das Camp, a slum about 17km away from the woman's home in southwest Delhi. Inside the slum, people are demanding harsh punishment for the accused.

"The incident has really shocked all of us. I don't know how I will get my children admitted to a school. The incident has earned a bad name to this place," said Pooja Kumari, a neighbour of one of the accused.

Two of the six alleged assailants come from outside Delhi, according to police.

One is married with children and was arrested in his native village in Bihar state and the other, a juvenile, is a runaway from a broken home in Uttar Pradesh.

In India, murder is punishable by death by hanging, except in the case of offenders aged below 18.

hnews@herald.ie

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