New Delhi: India on Saturday mourned the death of the 23-year-old Delhi braveheart who was brutally gangraped and assaulted with an iron rod by six men aboard a moving bus in the national capital on December 16. The young paramedical student died at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital at 2.15 am on Saturday and a jittery Delhi Police, eager to ensure that anti-rape protesters did not catch them by surprise, stepped up security and locked down sensitive areas of the national capital.
The girl had been struggling against odds and fighting for her survival for the past 12 days. The odds were stacked against her as she had suffered significant brain injury, intestinal damage, cardiac arrests and multiple organ failure. Her small intestine had to be removed by the doctors at Safdarjung Hospital where she was under treatment for 10 days before she was airlifted to Singapore, reportedly for better medical care.
On Friday, the Mount Elizabeth Hospital reported that the girl had suffered significant brain injury and that it could take months, not weeks, for her to fully recover. The hospital, in a statement, had said that girl was in an extremely critical condition and on full ventilator support, adding that she unfit for surgery.
On Saturday, as news of her death came in, messages of condolence poured in from all sections of the society, including the government, which assured that it will not allow her death to go in vain and promised the strictest possible punishment to the culprits.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed the hope that the entire political class and civil society will set aside narrow sectional interests and agenda to make India a demonstrably safer place to live in. President Pranab Mukherjee said the girl "is a true hero and symbolises the Indian youth and women". He too assured that her death will not be in vain.
"I am deeply distressed by the unfortunate demise of the 23-year-old girl who passed away early this morning in Singapore. She was a brave and courageous girl who fought till the very last minute for her dignity and her life. She is a true hero and symbolises the best in Indian youth and women," said Pranab in a message.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde condoled her death and the latter said that the real tribute to the braveheart will be giving maximum punishment to her six tormentors. In a message to the family, he said, "A real tribute to her will be to ensure maximum punishment to the culprits. I pledge to work to strengthen the laws and ensure that such an incident never gets repeated again."
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said that the incident had shamed her government. She added that her thoughts were with the family and she hoped that the city never sees a repeat of such a barbaric incident. Dikshit appealed to people to maintain peace and calm. She said that the girl fought very courageously for her life and it was a terrible news that she was no more alive. Expressing her grief, the Chief Minister said it was not a moment to make long speeches.
No section of the society had been left untouched by the sheer brutality of the crime. Student organisations, NGOs and women's rights activists, who had organised protests in the aftermath of the crime, have vowed to continue peaceful marches and demonstrations till the government takes concrete steps to tackle crime against women.
Anticipating more protests, Delhi has been virtually locked down, with 10 Delhi Metro stations shut. These include Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, RCR, Udyog Bhavan, Jorbagh, Khan Market, Rajiv Chowk, Barakhambha, Mandi House and Pragati Maidan metro stations. However, inter-change facility will be available at Rajiv Chowk and Central Secretariat stations, DMRC officials said. The police have also barricaded all entry points to India Gate, where the massive protests had taken place in last few days, along with roads leading to Vijay Chowk and Rajpath. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 have also been imposed in the New Delhi district of the national capital.
The students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, however, have planned a silent march in the capital while another peaceful protest has been planned at Jantar Mantar. Aam Aadmi Party too has said it will hold a silent protest at Jantar Mantar at 11.00 am. In fact, protest marches are being planned across the country, including one by theatre and film personalities in Mumbai at 5.30 pm.
Braveheart's body to be flown back tonight
The body of the Delhi braveheart has been moved to a mortuary in the Singapore General Hospital and will be flown back to India by a chartered plane. In fact, a special Air India aircraft has been sent to Singapore to bring back the body.
Accompanied by her family, the body is expected to arrive in Delhi by Saturday night.
Accused will be charged with murder too: Delhi Police
The six men accused of raping and assaulting the 23-year-old paramedical student, who died after battling for her life for over 12 days in a Singapore hospital, will now be charged with murder. Delhi Police has said they will file the chargesheet in the case on January 3, 2013.
Police had already invoked the stringent charges of attempt to murder and destruction of evidence against the accused. Investigators had earlier pressed charges against them under sections 365 (kidnapping or abducting), 376 (2)(g) (gang rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 394 (hurting in committing robbery) and 34 (common intention) of IPC.
Now with the death of the braveheart, the police said it will charge the accused with murder too and tell the court to treat it as the rarest of rare case. While one of the accused is a minor, the others are Ram Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh and Akshay Singh alias Thakur.
The five accused who are above the age of 18 years will be charged under Section 302 (murder) and could be given death penalty. Police have also sought the court's permission to get a bone marrow check to ascertain the age of the accused, who is claiming to be minor.