India reacts in anger after woman gang-raped on bus

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POLITICIANS, rights groups and citizens across India expressed outrage yesterday over the gang rape of a woman on a bus in New Delhi and urged the government to crack down on crimes against women.

The outpouring of anger is unusual in a country where attacks against women are often ignored and rarely prosecuted.

Opposition MPs protested outside parliament yesterday and called for the death penalty for the rapists.

Demonstrations erupted outside New Delhi’s police headquarters, while angry students set up roadblocks across the city. “We want to jolt people awake from the cozy comfort of their cars. We want people to feel the pain of what women go through every day,” said Aditi Roy, a Delhi University student.

Police say six men raped the 23-year-old medical student, and beat her and her companion with iron rods before throwing them off the bus on Sunday. The woman remains in a critical condition in hospital and has severe internal injuries.

Delhi police chief Neeraj Kumar said four men have been arrested and a search was ongoing for the two other men. Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde told parliament that he had ordered increased police patrols on the streets, especially at night.

Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress Party, visited the victim, promised swift action against the perpetrators and called for police to be trained to deal with crimes against women.

“It is a matter of shame that these incidents recur with painful regularity and that our daughters, sisters and mothers are unsafe in our capital city,” she wrote in a letter to Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

The Times of India newspaper dedicated four pages to the rape yesterday, demanding an example be made of the rapists, while television stations debated the nation’s treatment of its women.

“We have been screaming ourselves hoarse demanding greater security for women and girls. But the government, the police and others responsible for public security have ignored the daily violence that women face,” said Sehba Farooqui, a women’s rights activist.

In India’s slow justice system, cases can languish for ten to 15 years before reaching court.