In Indian student's gang rape, murder, two worlds collide

Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:53am EST
 

By Annie Banerji

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - One of hundreds of attacks reported in New Delhi each year, the gang rape and murder of a medical student caught Indian authorities and political parties flat-footed, slow to see that the assault on a private bus had come to symbolize an epidemic of crime against women.

In the moments before the December 16 attack, the 23-year-old woman from India's urban middle class, who had recently qualified as a trainee physiotherapist in a private Delhi hospital, and her male friend, a software engineer, were walking home from a cinema at a shopping mall in south Delhi, according to a police reconstruction of events.

A bus, part of a fleet of privately owned vehicles used as public transport across the city of 16 million, and known as India's "rape capital", was at the same time heading toward them. Earlier that day, it had ferried school students but was now empty except for five men and a teenage boy, including its crew, police said. Most of the men were from the city's slums.

One of the six - all now charged with murder - lured the couple onto the bus, promising to drop the woman home, police have said, quoting from an initial statement that she gave from her hospital bed before her condition deteriorated rapidly.

A few minutes into the ride, her friend, 28, grew suspicious when the bus deviated from the supposed route and the men locked the door, according to her statement. They then taunted her for being out with a man late at night, prompting the friend to intervene and provoking an initial scuffle.

The attackers then beat him with a metal rod, knocking him unconscious, before turning on the woman who had tried to come to his defense. Police say the men admitted after their arrest to torturing and raping the student "to teach her a lesson".

At one point, the bus driver gave the wheel to another of the accused and dragged the woman by the neck to the back of the vehicle and forced himself upon her. The other five then took turns raping her and also driving the bus, keeping it circling through the busy streets of India's capital city, police said.

The woman was raped for nearly an hour before the men pushed a metal rod inside her, severely damaging her internal organs, and then dumped both her and her friend on the roadside, 8 km (5 miles) from where they had boarded it, police said.   Continued...

 
Policemen stand guard outside the cremation ground during the funeral of a rape victim after her body arrived from Singapore, in New Delhi December 30, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi