India gang-rape victim's family want executions
THE family of an Indian gang-rape victim said Monday they would not rest until her killers are hanged as police finalised their investigation before charges are laid against suspects this week.
As the ruling Congress party reportedly pushed for tougher punishments for sex crimes, including chemical castration, authorities in New Delhi launched a hotline to improve safety for women in a city dubbed "India's rape capital".
Around 400 university students gathered in central Delhi on Monday, vowing to continue their "movement" until better safety measures are put in place and the guilty punished.
The dead woman, whom friends say was planning to marry in February, died of her injuries on Saturday in a Singapore hospital, nearly two weeks after being savagely attacked by men on a bus in New Delhi. She was cremated on Sunday.
"The fight has just begun. We want all the accused hanged, and we will fight for that, till the end," he told the Indian Express.
Delhi police said their probe was almost complete, pending the arrival of an autopsy report from doctors in Singapore and the conclusions of forensic experts, with charges to be unveiled on Thursday.
"It is up to the court to decide when the trial would begin," said police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.
Six men are facing murder charges after allegedly luring the 23-year-old onto a bus in New Delhi on Dec 16 and then taking it in turns to rape her before throwing her out of the moving vehicle.
The man whom she was hoping to marry was also left with serious injuries after he too was attacked and dumped on the roadside. His father told the same newspaper that his son would be "in pain throughout his life".
The 28-year-old attended the cremation on Sunday and has taken part in an identification parade for suspects at New Delhi's Tihar jail, relatives said.
While the country returned to work after a weekend marked by candlelit vigils and street protests, few people were in the mood to celebrate New Year. Many bars as well as the armed forces cancelled or toned down festivities.
Seeking to assuage anger at police and local officials for failing to prevent widespread violence against women, the Delhi government announced compensation of 1.5 million rupees (RM83,415) for the family of the murdered woman and promised one of her relatives a job.
The young woman's father also spoke of the impact of the tragedy on the family, saying her mother was consumed by grief.
"My wife had hardly eaten in the last two weeks," said the father.
"She was exhausted... I think she was not ready to face the shock of our daughter's death, despite doctors always telling us that she was serious. She cried intermittently all of Saturday, but it got worse on the flight back home."
The father, who was also at his daughter's bedside when she was pronounced dead in Singapore, said he too was struggling to accept the news.
"It is too painful. I have not gone inside her room. She was born in this house. Her books, clothes they are all here," he said.
"It is hard to believe I will never hear her voice again, she will never read books to me in English again."
The attack has led to widespread calls for rapists to be executed in a country where the crime is so commonplace that it rarely gets a mention in the papers.
India does have the death penalty on its statute book for "the rarest of rare" crimes although executions are only occasionally carried out.
Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was hanged last month but it was the first execution for eight years.
The UN's high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay said she hoped the incident would mark a turning point for India but that the death penalty "is not the answer".
"What is needed is a new public consciousness and more effective and sensitive enforcement of the law in the interests of women," she said.
"India has shown through its social reform movements of the past that it can rid itself of a scourge like rape."
Rattled by the angry protests, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ordered a retired judge, J.S. Verma, to lead a review of laws on sex crimes.
According to reports on Monday, Singh's own Congress party may propose in its submissions to Verma's inquiry that rapists serve up to 30 years behind bars and be chemically castrated
"Certain proposals have been made but we cannot officially comment at this stage because the draft is not ready as yet," said a party spokesman. — AFP