The country woke up on Saturday to the news that many had feared — the 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim had died early that morning at a Singapore hospital. The girl’s body, being flown back, is expected early on Sunday.
The President, the Prime Minister, the UPA Chairperson and other political leaders condoled the death of the physiotherapy student even while calling for calm.
Grief and anger swept the entire country, and in the Capital, which has seen widespread protests ever since the 23-year-olds brutal rape on December 16 came to light, thousands came onto to the streets. The Government had turned Central Delhi into a fortress, shutting down 10 Metro stations and blocking roads leading to India Gate, making it inaccessible to the protesters. “The Indian State has practised and perfected (the art of subverting dissenting voices) in the margins of the country for a long time, be it North-East or Kashmir. They have been thoroughly exposed,” said Nivedita Menon, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Even as thousands gathered in different parts of the Capital in a show of solidarity against sexual violence, Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, who attempted to join the protesters at Jantar Mantar, was booed by the angry crowd.
They raised a number of questions against the administration, including the Delhi Government, the Centre as well as the Delhi Police. The answers are being sought not only for the Delhi gang-rape victim, but also for the 18-year-old rape victim in Punjab who committed suicide because of humiliation. Hinting at a power tussle with the Home Ministry, Dikshit said she had urged Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to open India Gate to the protesters, but her request was turned down.
Earlier this week, Dikshit has complained that the Delhi Police (under the Home Ministry) had interfered in the process of recording the victim’s statement.
Aditya, a Delhi University student, said, “Look at Delhi. Look at India Gate. There is grief all around and the first thing the Government can do is shut the city down. May be politicians, across parties, can start by ousting all members who have pending cases of crimes against women.”