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Under Pressure, India Fast-Tracks Gang-Rape Case


In India, protesters are vowing to keep up their fight until there is justice for the young victim of a gang rape. The young woman died this weekend after injuries she suffered in the vicious attack. The incident has renewed demands for action against sexual violence. Delhi police say the accused will be formally charged with murder. From New Delhi, here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The year closes in India with prospects of a new movement galvanized around the lack of public safety for women in India who are too often the victims of sexual crime.


MCCARTHY: For a second straight day, a steady stream of mourners converged in the central city park two weeks after the gang rape in Delhi of the 23-year-old student who died of her injuries over the weekend. Her ordeal - set upon by six assailants aboard a bus - has become the nation's ordeal. As they grieved Sunday, mourners painted placards, signed petitions and sang songs.

A Hindu devotional song rent the cold night air.


MCCARTHY: Mahatma Gandhi had famously invoked this song during his civil disobedience campaign for Indian independence. The funeral of the young woman who has been dubbed Braveheart was held under tight security. The young victim was cremated at sunrise Sunday. Her emotionally drained mother collapsed at the ceremony. At one of the many outdoor vigils for her last night, the young and old alike stood four deep in a circle, tear-streaked faces aglow in the candlelit darkness.

Thirty-year-old Parul Mahajan said amid the sadness there was also a sense of well-being as ordinary citizens, especially the young, found a voice to demand that they country treat women with greater respect.

PARUL MAHAJAN: I think it's historic. I just checked (unintelligible) on Facebook and I told my friends it's magical. You need to step out and experience this. I don't know if it's going to change or if it's going to remain the same after three weeks, but at least today I'm very happy and proud. Sad that it took one death, one brutal rape and death of that woman, but I'm happy. I see more of men on the street than women.

And I see parents bringing their children, educating their children.

MCCARTHY: Indians are engaged in a debate, asking whether India has failed its women and why there are so many cases of sexual assault. The number of rapes reported in the capital topped 650 this year, a record. Within families there are disputes about the roots of the problem. Parul Mahajan and Mayank Singh are man and wife.

MAYANK SINGH: You cannot point out that it's a social reason. We see our women as lesser people. We don't see them as equal. That's not true. That's really not true.

MAHAJAN: That's you talking.

SINGH: That's me talking and I'm only...

MAHAJAN: You're not majority. I really think women in general are given the second class treatment in the country, and it'll take another thousand years to change, but I think we are on that path already, which is a good sign.

MCCARTHY: Under public pressure the government says it will fast track the trial of the six accused in the notorious rape. Police are awaiting forensic reports that would establish the presence of the defendants inside the bus that the young woman boarded with her companion, who was also brutally beaten in the attack. Indian media report that the two were to be married in February. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.
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