Delhi gangrape victim dies in Singapore hospital, body to be brought back to India today

Ambulances outside Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

The 23-year-old girl, who was gangraped and brutally assaulted in a Delhi bus nearly a fortnight ago, died at at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore on Saturday. Her body will be brought back to India tonight.

“The body of the gangraped victim will be flown back to India today on a chartered plane,” Indian High Commissioner Dr T C A Raghavan said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, keeping in view the the mass protests at the Jantar Mantar and India Gate, Delhi government has heightened security at all Metro stations in the capital city.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was aware of the emotions the attack has generated and it was up to all Indians to ensure that the young woman’s death will not have been in vain.

The victim “passed away peacefully” with her family and officials of the Indian Embassy by her side, Dr. Kevin Loh, the chief executive of Mount Elizabeth hospital, said in a statement.

After 10 days at a hospital in Delhi, the woman was brought on Thursday to Mount Elizabeth hospital, which specialises in multi-organ transplants. Loh said the woman had been in extremely critical condition since Thursday, and by late Friday her condition had taken a turn for the worse, with her vital signs deteriorating.

“Despite all efforts by a team of eight specialists in Mount Elizabeth Hospital to keep her stable, her condition continued to deteriorate over these two days,” Loh said. “She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain. She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome.”

A police hearse leaves Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

The woman and a male friend, who have not been identified, were travelling on a bus after watching a film on the evening of December 16 when they were attacked by six men who raped her. The men also beat the couple and inserted an iron rod into the woman’s body, resulting in severe organ damage. Both were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to police.

Police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, which left the victim with severe internal injuries, a lung infection and brain damage. She also suffered from a heart attack while in the hospital in India.

Indian High Commissioner, or ambassador, T.C.A. Raghavan told reporters that the scale of the injuries she suffered was “very grave” and in the end “proved too much.”

He said arrangements were being made to take her body back to India.The frightening nature of the crime shocked Indians, who have come out in the thousands for almost daily demonstrations. Television channels said security had been tightened in New Delhi in anticipation of more protests following the woman’s death.

The protesters are demanding stronger protection for women and the death penalty for rape, which is now punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment. Women face daily harassment across India, ranging from catcalls on the streets, groping and touching in public transport to rape.

Singh said he understands the angry reaction to the attack and hopes all Indians will work together to make appropriate changes.

“These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change,” the Prime Minister said in a statement. “It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channel these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action.”

He said the government was examining the penalties for crimes such as rape “to enhance the safety and security of women.”

“I hope that the entire political class and civil society will set aside narrow sectional interests and agendas to help us all reach the end that we all desire – making India a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in,” Singh said.

The tragedy has forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crime, which forces them to keep quiet and not report it to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Also, police often refuse to accept complaints from those who are courageous enough to report the rapes, and the rare prosecutions that reach courts drag on for years.

Indian attitudes toward rape are so entrenched that even politicians and opinion makers have often suggested that women should not go out at night or wear clothes that might be seen provocative.

On Friday, Abhijit Mukherjee, son of President Pranab Mukherjee, apologised for calling the protesters “highly dented and painted” women who go from discos to demonstrations.

“I tender my unconditional apology to all the people whose sentiments got hurt,” he said.

Separately, authorities in Punjab state took action on Thursday when an 18-year-old woman killed herself by drinking poison a month after she told police she was gangraped.

State authorities suspended one police officer and fired two others on accusations they delayed investigating and taking action in the case. The three accused in the rape were only arrested on Thursday night, a month after the crime was reported.

“This is a very sensitive crime, I have taken it very seriously,” said Paramjit Singh Gill, a top police officer of Patiala.

The woman was raped on November 13 and reported the attack to police on November 27. But police harassed the girl, asked her embarrassing questions and took no action against the accused, police sources said.

Authorities in Chhattisgarh also suspended a police officer on accusations he refused to register a rape complaint from a woman who said she had been attacked by a driver.

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