Body of India rape victim arrives home in New Delhi

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The body of a woman whose gang rape provoked protests and rare national debate about violence against women in India arrived back in New Delhi early on Sunday.

The unidentified 23-year-old medical student died from her injuries on Saturday, prompting promises of action from a government that has struggled to respond to public outrage.

She had suffered brain injuries and massive internal damage in the attack on December 16, and died in hospital in Singapore where she had been taken for treatment.

She and a male friend had been returning home from the cinema, media reports say, when six men on a bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. The friend survived.

Six suspects were charged with murder after her death.

A Reuters correspondent saw family members who had been with her in Singapore take her body back to their Delhi home in an ambulance with a police escort.

Ruling party leader Sonia Gandhi was seen arriving at the airport when the plane landed and Prime Minister Mannmohan Singh’s convoy was also there, the witness said.

The body was later taken to a crematorium and cremated, news channels reported. Media were kept away but a Reuters witness saw the woman’s family, New Delhi’s chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, and the junior home minister, R P N Singh, coming out of the crematorium.

The outcry over the attack caught the government off-guard. It took a week for Singh to make a statement, infuriating many protesters.

PROTESTS

Issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide rarely enter mainstream political discourse in India.

Analysts say the death of the woman dubbed “Amanat”, an Urdu word meaning “treasure”, by some Indian media could change that, although it is too early to say whether the protesters calling for government action to better safeguard women can sustain their momentum through to national elections due in 2014.

Protesters have staged peaceful demonstrations in the capital New Delhi and in cities across India in the last few days to keep the pressure on Singh’s government to get tougher on crime against women. Last weekend, protesters fought pitched battles with police.

Authorities, worried about the reaction to the news of her death on Saturday, deployed thousands of policemen, closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in central New Delhi.

Most sex crimes in India go unreported, many offenders go unpunished, and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists, who say that successive governments have done little to ensure the safety of women.

Commentators and sociologists say the rape has tapped into a deep well of frustration many Indians feel over what they see as weak governance and poor leadership on social issues.

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. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in India rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011.

 

                                                                                     – Thomson Reuters

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After Newtown, Americans want their guns, with some restrictions

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Nearly seven in 10 Americans support the idea of placing strong or moderate limits gun ownership following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Thursday.

But laws that permit citizens to carry concealed weapons or use lethal force for protection while in public were just as popular, the poll said.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll, which surveyed 1,477 Americans online between December 23 and 27, highlighted the difficulty U.S. policymakers face in devising ways to curb gun violence: gun control laws enjoy fervent support in the abstract, but laws preserving specific gun ownership privileges are also well liked.

The poll results come roughly two weeks after police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, using a semi-automatic weapon to kill 20 first graders and six school staff members. Ahead of the rampage, he had killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, in their home five miles away. Lanza killed himself as police arrived at the school.

It was the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, which left 32 dead.

The Reuters/Ipsos survey found that 48 percent of respondents agreed that “gun ownership should have strong regulations or restrictions.” Meanwhile, 69 percent and 68 percent either strongly supported or somewhat supported laws allowing law-abiding citizens to get a concealed-weapon permit and “laws allowing citizens to use deadly force to protect themselves from danger in public places,” respectively.

Some restrictions on gun ownership enjoyed even more support than concealed carry rights. Nearly nine in 10 Americans favored laws requiring background checks before someone purchases a gun, and just over seven in 10 favored limits on the number of guns someone could purchase in a particular time frame.

But nearly four in 10 Americans said they supported allowing law-abiding citizens to bring a firearm into a “church, workplace, or retail establishment,” according to the poll. Several states currently ban guns in such places.

An equal number said they were “very concerned” about increased purchases of semi-automatic weapons following the shooting in Connecticut, further illustrating the dissonance.

The latest poll results echoed attitudes expressed by Americans surveyed immediately after the Newtown massacre and differed sharply from Reuters/Ipsos polls conducted prior to it. The share of Americans supporting strong limits on gun ownership rose by 8 percentage points to 50 percent in the days after the shooting.

The poll’s findings had a credibility interval, which is similar to a margin of error, of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

 

                                                                                       – Reuters

Newtown students return to class after school massacre

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Students returned to school in the shattered Connecticut town of Newtown on Tuesday for the first time since a gunman’s rampage killed 26 people in an elementary school, altering the gun control debate in Washington and forcing a retailer to pull guns from shelves.

Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down a score of 6- and 7-year-olds and six adults on Friday, will remain closed. It is an active crime scene, with police coming and going past a line of 26 Christmas trees, one for each victim, decorated with ornaments, stuffed animals and balloons in the school colors of green and white.

When Sandy Hook students go back to school, it will be at the unused Chalk Hill School in nearby Monroe, where a sign across the street read, “Welcome Sandy Hook Elementary!”

Police have warned it could take months for them to finish their investigation, which was set back because Lanza smashed his computer’s hard drive, preventing police from retrieving any data, The New York Times reported, citing a senior law enforcement official.

The rest of Newtown’s schools reopened with grief counselors and police present, though it was unclear how many of the town’s 4,700 students would attend.

“It’s going to be awful, doing the things we used to do,” said Miguel, 16, who stopped by a doughnut shop on his way to Newtown High School. “There’s going to be a lot of tears.”

The massacre of young children shocked Americans who had grown accustomed to mass shootings, prompting some U.S. lawmakers to call for tighter gun restrictions and pressuring one private equity firm to sell its investment in a gunmaker.

In addition, Dick’s Sporting Goods pulled all guns from its store closest to Newtown and suspended the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles in its stores nationwide.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc took down an informational website about semi-automatic Bushmaster rifles.

Cabela’s Inc continued to sell the model used by Lanza – a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle – on its website.

President Barack Obama, who called for action at a Sunday night prayer vigil in Newtown, held talks with Vice President Joe Biden and three Cabinet members on Monday in what a White House official said was an effort to “begin looking at ways the country can respond to the tragedy in Newtown.”

Several Democratic lawmakers have sought a new push for U.S. gun restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons such as the Bushmaster AR-15 used by Lanza, who carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition in extra clips and shot all of his victims repeatedly, one of them 11 times. Lanza also shot dead his mother before driving to the school, and then killed himself to end the massacre with a death toll of 28.

The nation’s powerful gun industry lobby, the National Rifle Association, has remained silent on the Newtown shooting.

U.S. private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management announced it was selling its investment in gunmaker Freedom Group following pressure from a major investor, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), which said on Monday it was reviewing its investment with Cerberus.

CalSTRS, the second largest pension fund in the United States, had invested $751.4 million with Cerberus by the end of March 2012, according to its website. Cerberus bought firearms maker Bushmaster in 2006 and later merged it with other gun companies to create Freedom Group

 

– Reuters