A 19-year-old woman, who was brutally gang-raped in a village in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras district two weeks ago, died of her grievous injuries at a Delhi hospital on Tuesday, prompting outrage, protests and calls for justice.
Recalling the horrors of the Nirbhaya case, the Dalit teen was allegedly sexually attacked by four men on September 14 and referred on Monday to a Delhi hospital in an extremely critical condition with spinal injuries, paralysis and cuts in her tongue.
She couldn't survive the night and died at 3 am, Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrant Vir quoted her family as saying.
As news of her death spread, protests broke out at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital as well as in Vijay Chowk and in Hathras, about 180 km away.
All sections of society, including politicians, sports and cine stars and activists, spoke out on Twitter and elsewhere to express their anguish and demand justice for her.
The four men alleged to be involved in the crime have been arrested and will now face charges under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, according to the Hathras SP.
On September 14, the young woman had gone to the fields with her mother and went missing soon after. She was found later, beaten and tortured, her tongue cut as she bit it when the accused attempted to strangle her, the SP said while giving details of the attack.
A spokesperson at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Aligarh where she was first admitted said her legs were completely paralysed and arms partially paralysed.
Leading the protests outside Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad said he appealed to all members of the Dalit community to take to the streets and demand death penalty for the guilty.
“The government should not test our patience. We won't rest until the culprits are hanged," he said as restless crowds milled around the complex.
Azad held the state government “equally responsible” for her tragic death.
Hitting out at the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress questioned the "silence" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and women Bharatiya Janata Party leaders on the issue and alleged that the state has become the "crime capital" of the country.
The party also staged protests demanding justice for the victim at Vijay Chowk. The party said its leaders P L Punia, Udit Raj and other leaders were detained at the Mandir Marg Police station for the protest.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the "class-specific jungle raj" of UP has killed another young woman.
"The government said this is fake news and left the victim to die. Neither was this unfortunate incident fake, nor was the death of the victim and the brutality of the government," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said a “Dalit girl who was victim of demoniac behaviour in Hathras” has passed away at Safdarjung Hospital after struggling for two weeks between life and death in hospitals.
"Law and order in UP has deteriorated to a great extent. There is no semblance of safety for women. The criminals are committing crimes in the open," Priyanka Gandhi said.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav also spoke out.
In a tweet in Hindi, Mayawati said, "The news of the death of Dalit victim after gangrape in Hathras, UP is very saddening. The government should provide all possible help to the victim's family and ensure fast punishment to the culprits by prosecuting them in a fast track court. This is the demand of the BSP."
Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav condoled the death of a “Dalit daughter”.
"A Dalit daughter, who was a victim of gangrape and brutality, ultimately died… No hope is left with the present insensitive government," Yadav said in a tweet in Hindi. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal described the young woman's death as a shame for society, the country as well as for all governments.
Cricketer Virat Kohli, who is in the UAE for the ongoing IPL, said, "What happened in #Hathras is inhumane and goes beyond cruelty. Hope the culprits of this heinous crime will be brought to justice…”
In Bollywood, actors Akshay Kumar, Farhan Akhtar, Richa Chadha among others called for "serious punishment".
Akhtar posted a heartbreak emoji on Twitter and said it was a "sad, sad day".
"How much longer can this be allowed to go on," he wrote.
"Tried really hard to gather my thoughts before expressing my sorrow, anger and disgust. It's 2020 and still so many Nirbhayas have to give their lives,” added Yami Gautam.
National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma said it has assured all possible assistance to her family and has reached out to the brother.
In a video message, she said the commission had sought an action taken report from the Uttar Pradesh Police on the matter.
Eight years after the case of the physiotherapy intern who was gangraped in Delhi on December 16, 2012 and died of her injuries a fortnight later, just like the Hathras teen, nothing much has changed, said civil society activists.
Many were also struck by the similarities.
Then, too, protests had broken outside the Safdarjung Hospital where the woman, who came to be known as Nirbhaya, the fearless one, was admitted before being moved to Singapore where she died.
The Hathras SP said police initially they came to know that Sandip, 20, had tried to kill the 19-year-old and he was arrested the same day.
Later in her statement to the magistrate, the woman had said that besides Sandip, Ramu, Lavkush and Ravi had raped her and when she resisted their attempts, they tried to strangulate her, leading to the cut in the tongue.