Protests banned as gang-rape victim recounts ordeal

An Indian student who was savagely gang-raped has begun to recount her ordeal to police, as authorities reacted to violent protests by banning demonstrations in the capital.

Protests banned as   gang-rape victim recounts ordeal

The victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student who had been battling for her life since the assault a week ago, gave her first statement to police over the weekend in the New Delhi hospital where she is being treated.

“All six men took turns to sexually assault me,” the Hindustan Times newspaper quoted the victim as saying to police.

“They threw us on the side of the road where I fainted,” she added.

Her answers to the questioning appeared to confirm most of the details officers had already managed to piece together from a statement by her 28-year-old male companion who was also assaulted.

All six of the alleged attackers have now been arrested and remanded in custody. Police say the six were drunk and were joy-riding in an off-duty bus with tainted windows when they picked the unsuspecting pair up as they were returning from a night out at the cinema.

The men then took turns in raping the student at the back of the bus, according to police and prosecutors.

During her assault, the victim suffered serious intestinal injuries from being beaten with an iron rod.

The brutal attack has triggered a series of angry demonstrations in Delhi and in other cities across the country with protesters demanding the death penalty for the rapists and better security for women.

The government, stung by criticism that victims of sex assaults are often let down by India’s notoriously slow justice system, has said it is considering bringing in the death penalty for the most extreme rape cases.

In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police.

One group of protesters camped overnight outside the residence of Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the main ruling Congress party.

“I am with you.... and justice will be delivered,” Gandhi told the protesters in an impromptu address after midnight.

Fearing more violent protests, police declared areas close to the president’s residence and the parliament off-limits and detained those who defied the prohibitory orders.

All the routes leading to landmark government buildings were cordoned off and metro stations in the vicinity were closed to the public.

However, a small group did manage to gather beside India Gate and another protest was organised in an open area in an outlying neighbourhood which is not covered by the ban.

“We are here to protest a heinous crime. We have the right to protest,” the PTI quoted one of the protesters at India Gate as saying.

Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the Congress-led government would look at “enhanced punishment in the rarest of rare rape cases” — a reference to capital punishment.

The current maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment and “it (the death penalty) will have to be discussed in detail“, Shinde told a news conference.

India has executed two people since 2004 — one of whom was Mohammed Kasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The other was a criminal who raped and killed his schoolgirl victim.

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India’s major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures.

Most sexual assaults go unreported and unremarked, but the brutality of last week’s attack triggered the biggest protests in the capital since mid-2011 demonstrations against corruption that rocked the government of prime minister Manmohan Singh.

The protesters, predominantly college students but also housewives and even children, are demanding more steps from the authorities to ensure safety for women.

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