New Delhi/Singapore: The unnamed, unidentified gang-rape victim who became the global
face of courage in the face of savage odds died in a Singapore
hospital Saturday, halting much of India in its tracks in a rare
moment of coalescing concerns that saw the leadership echoing
millions in pushing for a full stop in crimes against women.
Her death should not be in vain, was the chorus from President
Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress
president Sonia Gandhi and civil society, doffing its collective
hat to the spirited 23-year-old who propelled an entire nation
into a rethink of its societal rules and laws.
Across the country, in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Bhopal, Patna,
Kolkata, in city after city, the grief found echo. Hundreds
gathered at various places demanding an end to crimes such as
In the dying days of the year, the young physiotherapy intern had
lost her battle for life in a Singapore hospital - 13 days after a
trip to see a film with a friend ended in her being brutally
tortured and raped by six men in a moving bus.
She was left, stripped and bloody, virtually for dead on that cold
Dec 16 night, so grievously injured that her intestines had to be
taken out. Now she is dead.
The six accused, including one suspected juvenile, are in jail and
all of society in the dock. All six will now face murder charge.
The woman passed away peacefully at 4.45 a.m. with her family and
Indian diplomats by her side, Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital
"She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious
injuries to her body and brain," hospital official Kevin Loh said.
"We are humbled by the privilege of being tasked to care for her
in her final struggle."
The ripples were felt in Singapore, where people queued up outside
the Indian high commission on Grange Road to pay tribute to the
doughty woman from a humble family in India's Uttar Pradesh state.
Questions also arose on why she was shifted to Singapore when her
health was so precarious. And the government was the target. For
lax policing that led to the incident, and for taking the risky
decision to move her.
The body is to be flown back to India Saturday evening in a
As introspection continued on the vulnerability of women, the
legal framework to prevent aggravated sexual assaults and ways to
stem such crimes, there were tears and protests.
From politicians, celebrities, students and domestic workers. Men
and women, everybody was a stakeholder. Many pushed for the death
penalty but there were also voices advising against such extreme
The president termed the young woman -- who had told her family
she did not want to die -- "a true hero".
"...let us resolve that this death will not be in vain," he added.
The prime minister spoke out in almost the same words, saying that
it was up to "us all to ensure that her death will not have been
The reticent Sonia Gandhi said - twice in two days - that we
"pledge that she will get justice and that her fight will not have
been in vain…"
Others spoke up too. Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan said he was
ashamed of being a man. "I promise I will fight with your voice,"
he said in a tribute to the "brave little girl".
And actress-activist Shabana Azmi said: "Our impotence stares us
in the face."
India's civil society agreed. And gathered in their thousands.
Though there was a virtual lockdown in Delhi's city centre,
protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar area close by and the anger
spilled over. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was booed away.
The bus stop at Munirka, where the woman boarded the bus for that
last ill-fated ride, piled up with flowers and scores of posters.
Many people across the country felt that the dead woman could have
been one amongst them.
But even in this cathartic moment of collective grief, reports
came in of harassment at Jantar Mantar.
And just three days ago, an 18-year-old victim of gang-rape
committed suicide in Patiala, Punjab, because police had refused
to register a case and humiliated her by asking difficult
This should be India's wake-up moment. But was it?