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NEW DELHI – “Wake up India. She is Dead”. The headline in India’s leading newspaper The Hindustan Times summed up India’s mood Sunday morning as the 23-year-old woman, who was brutally gang-raped on Dec. 16, was cremated in a private ceremony in Delhi hours after her body was flown back from Singapore late Saturday night.
Following the crime, which shook the country, the woman was battling for life in a Delhi hospital and was flown to Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital Friday for further treatment, but her condition detoriated, and she died Saturday.
Bollywood joined others in mourning her death.
“Her body has passed away, but her soul shall shall forever stir our hearts!” tweeted iconic actor Amitabh Bachchan. His son and actor Abhishek Bachchan also posted a series of tweets. “This is not the country I grew up in as a child, this is not the country I want my daughter to know whilst she grows up!” he said. “I have always been a very proud Indian. Today, we should ALL be ashamed. Will it always take an innocent’s death for a nation to awake?”
While six people accused of attacking the victim and gang-raping the woman on a moving bus in Delhi have been arrested, the incident has led to a national debate and violent protests in the city against the government, with people demanding instant justice and an overhaul of public safety for women.
News of her death dominated news networks with live coverage of mostly peaceful protests held in various cities. Leading Bollywood celebrities joined in a Mumbai candle light protest which saw veteran actress and a member of India’s Parliament, Jaya Bachchan break down as she said, “There are many girls in my family. I feel scared when I think of what the 23-year-old had to go through. Whatever we did was very late. We should collectively apologise to the family and to all women who have gone through such an ordeal. Please don’t tarnish the reputation of our country.”
“This ghastly incident has again highlighted the fact women are not safe in the country anymore. We need firm steps to ensure safety of our women and other citizens,” added veteran actress Shabana Azmi who was also joined by other film personalities including actors Om Puri, Satish Kaushik and Ranveer Singh, among others.
Following the violent protests last Sunday in Delhi at the India Gate war memorial and the adjoining President’s estate, the area has been under a police clampdown with major metro stations shut down. “This is NOT the time to shut down metros, India Gate or India. This is the time to apologise. Say SORRY for letting people down,” veteran actor Anupam Kher said in a series of tweets echoing the public’s outrage against the government, adding, “This is Death of Human Dignity, Death of Being an Indian, Death of Innocence and this is also Death of A System. India is Heart Broken. RIP.”
While its still not clear how the protests have affected cinema attendance over the weekend, expectedly, the security measures have put a dampener on new year festivities planned at various night clubs and hotels. “A celebration at this time does not make sense,” a manager at Delhi venue Blues Cafe and Bar, told a newspaper, adding, “As a tribute to the brave girl, we have canceled events at our outlet. While we will be open for dinner, for the first time we will not have any New Year’s Eve party.”
Leading hotel The Lalit was hosting a New Year party featuring a guest appearance by American porn-star-turned-Bollywood-actress Sunny Leone (who made her Hindi film debut this summer with the erotic thriller Jism 2). While Leone’s appearance has not been canceled, a hotel spokesperson told a city paper that “unlike every year, this time we will start our event at 6pm and wrap up early. The safety of our guests is our foremost concern.”
“On the stroke of the midnight hour, on 31st December, I will stand in silence in her (the victim’s) memory. Will you, or will you party on?” tweeted director Shekhar Kapur.
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