How gang-rape horror has rocked India

Gang-rape victim’s bus ride to death has brought anger over the plight of India’s women to boil, and reflection on an all too common crime

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 4:00am


After watching Life of Pi in a New Delhi mall, the 23-year-old student and her male companion were looking for a quick lift home when a bus with tinted windows pulled over.

Once on board, the pair were subjected to a catalogue of violence and sexual depravity that has evoked comparisons with Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange and brought simmering anger over the plight of women to the boil across India.

The Indian news channel NDTV greeted news of her death in the early hours of yesterday morning in a Singapore hospital with the banner headline, "RIP: India's Daughter" - a reflection of how her plight moved the nation.

Since the brutal attack on the night of December 16, the country's leaders have lined up to offer their prayers and condemn the violence as well as paying for her treatment in Singapore.

Although the identity of the young woman has not yet been released, reports said she was a medical student who hailed from a rural area of Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, which borders the capital New Delhi.

Her parents, who travelled to Singapore after she was flown out by air ambulance on Wednesday night, are said to have sold their small piece of land to fund their daughter's education, often limiting their own meals to little more than rotis with namak (salt), according to NDTV.

"These are simple, rustic people, who have never dreamt of boarding an aircraft, much less travel to a foreign country in an air ambulance," a source at the hospital told Singapore's Straits Times after meeting her relatives.

Before flying out to Singapore, the woman had managed to give an interview to police at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital about the events on the night of her attack.

Police and prosecutors have outlined how six men picked the pair up outside the mall in a school bus, which they had taken for a joyride after a night of drinking heavily.

Even before they stopped outside the mall, they had allegedly picked up another passenger and forced him to hand over the contents of his wallet.

After getting into an argument with the woman's male companion, the group is then alleged to have lashed out at the pair before taking turns to rape the woman in the back of the bus while driving around Delhi for 45 minutes.

They also sexually assaulted the woman with a rusting metal bar, leaving her with severe intestinal injuries, before hurling her out of the vehicle. The bus would have had to cross numerous police checkpoints at that time of night, but at no stage was the vehicle pulled over by officers.

Gang rapes occur so regularly that they are rarely reported in the Indian press, although the attack in New Delhi has led papers to shine a rare spotlight on such violence.

On Thursday night, it emerged that a 17-year-old girl had committed suicide after police allegedly tried to persuade her to drop a complaint of gang rape.

After quoting from the infamous gang-rape scene in A Clockwork Orange, a columnist for The Hindu wrote last week that "few Indians will need a dictionary of the teenage slang Burgess invented to grasp the horror of this passage".

"For progress to be made, we must begin by acknowledging this one fact: the problem isn't the police, the courts or the government. The problem is us," wrote Praveen Swami.