India rape victim fights for life; new case emerges
Policemen stop protesters from approaching barricade on way to India Gate while protesting over gang-rape of young woman in moving bus in New Delhi, India, Dec. 27, 2012. / AP
Updated 4:45 a.m. EST
NEW DELHI The victim of a gang-rape in New Delhi fought for her life at a Singapore hospital Friday as officials in the Indian state of Punjab fired and suspended police officers accused of ignoring the rape of another woman, who then committed suicide.
Indian authorities have been accused of belittling rape victims and refusing to file cases against their attackers, further deterring victims -- already under societal pressure to keep the assaults quiet -- from reporting the crimes.
However, the gang-rape of the 23-year-old student on a moving bus in the capital two weeks ago has triggered widespread outrage and brought new focus on police and community attitudes toward women in India. Demonstrators in New Delhi have demanded stronger protections for women and stronger punishment for rapists.
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Authorities in Punjab took action Thursday when an 18-year-old woman killed herself by drinking poison a month after she told police she was gang-raped.
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 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 in the city of Patiala.
The Press Trust of India reported that the woman was raped Nov. 13 and reported the attack to police Nov. 27. But police harassed the girl, asked her embarrassing questions and took no action against the accused, PTI reported, citing police sources.
Authorities in the eastern state of 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.
Meanwhile, doctors in Singapore said the New Delhi gang-rape victim remained in extremely critical condition, had suffered a heart attack, a lung and abdominal infection and "significant" brain injury.
"The patient is currently struggling against the odds, and fighting for her life," said Mount Elizabeth Hospital chief executive Dr. Kelvin Loh.
Police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, which left the victim with severe internal injuries.
"We wish she recovers and comes back to us and that no time is lost in bringing the perpetrators of such a barbaric act to justice," said Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress Party.
Other politicians have come under fire for comments insulting the protesters and diminishing the crime.
On Friday, Abhijit Mukherjee, a national lawmaker and the son of India's president, apologized 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 told NDTV news.
The Reuters news agency points out that, should the woman die, "It could trigger fresh outrage over the case, which caught Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government off-guard and triggered a blame game between politicians and the police."
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