NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday he was deeply saddened by the death of a gang-rape victim and that the protests which erupted in the aftermath of her assault were “understandable”.
“I am deeply saddened to learn that the unfortunate victim of the brutal assault that took place on December 16 in New Delhi has succumbed to the grievous injuries she suffered following that attack,” he wrote on his website.
“We have already seen the emotions and energies this incident has generated. These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change.
“I want to tell them (her family) and the nation that while she may have lost her battle for life, it is up to us all to ensure that her death will not have been in vain.”
India has been rocked by mass protests since the 23-year-old was brutally assaulted on a bus in New Delhi by a group of six men.
The government has tried to assuage the tide of anger by promising tougher punishments for the most extreme sex crimes as well as establishing an official commission of inquiry into the handling of the rape case.
Singh, who has previously called for calm, said that it would be “a true homage to her memory if we are able to channelise these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action”.
“The need of the hour is a dispassionate debate and inquiry into the critical changes that are required in societal attitudes”.
“I hope that the entire political class and civil society will set aside narrow sectional interests and agenda to help us all reach the end that we all desire — making India a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in.”
An Indian woman whose gang-rape on a bus in New Delhi sparked widespread street protests died Saturday in Singapore after suffering severe organ failure, the hospital treating her said.
Authorities in India have been preparing for the possibility her death could ignite more protests after riot police were deployed on the capital's streets in the wake of the attack amid mounting anger at the daily dangers women face.
The 23-year-old was airlifted to Singapore on Thursday after she was attacked by six men on a bus in New Delhi on December 16, raped, hit with an iron bar, and thrown from the vehicle.
Some Indian medics had criticised the decision to move her.
“We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4:45 am (2045 GMT) on 29 Dec 2012,” Kelvin Loh, the chief executive of Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said in a statement.
“Her family and officials from the High Commission of India were by her side.” The woman had remained in an extremely critical condition since being admitted to the hospital, Loh said, with doctors mounting a last-ditch battle overnight to save her life.
“She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain,” Loh said.
“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.”
Indian television news channels carried blanket coverage from Singapore after news of the death broke.
The NDTV network ran a ticker-tape headline “RIP India's Daughter” while the Times Now channel headlined the news “Braveheart Passes Away”.
India's High Commissioner to Singapore T.C.A. Raghavan said the woman's family was “shattered” by her death.
“The scale of her injuries (was) very great,” Raghavan told reporters at the hospital.
“It was very trying for the family. The girl of course was unconscious... I must say they (the family) bore the entire process with a great deal of fortitude and a great deal of courage.”
The body was taken to a morgue, and Raghavan said arrangements were being made for it to be returned to India in line with the family's wishes.