Bollywood Joins Public Outrage Against Brutal Gang-Rape in India

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As the 23-year-old victim battles for her life in a Delhi hospital, a national furor has ignited over women's rights and safety.

NEW DELHI – After a 23-year-old woman was brutally attacked and gang-raped Sunday night in the Indian capital Delhi, the incident has reignited uproar over the long-running issue of women's safety in the country.

The horrific episode has dominated the headlines and prime time news coverage across India, while sparking intense debates in the ongoing session of Parliament. As the public, politicians and social activists joined in condemning the incident, leading Bollywood celebrities are also weighing in on the issue.

“We cannot blame a ghastly act on the collective deterioration of the world we live in. It is not an external condition. It's us!”, actor Shah Rukh Khan posted on his Twitter account. “It's us because we make that collective and if we don't punish the rapists then rightfully we will be punished soon -- very soon, when this inhuman crime hits our homes and families.”

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“In my view, there should be a death sentence for all rapists. Such things have no role in our life. I feel disgusted after hearing such things,” said Salman Khan at a press event in Delhi promoting the upcoming release of Dabangg 2, in which he returns as a Robin Hood-style cop. “I also believe that there should be a norm that if a rapist goes to jail, he should be beaten to death. I think Indian society needs to be 'dabangg' (bold) in their approach. I recently read a news article where a girl was being molested and people standing nearby were making videos on their phones. This is not the real India and I don't think such incidents can ever happen in front of my eyes,” he added.

The brutal rape took place when the woman, and her accompanying male friend, boarded a bus to head home after watching a movie at a south Delhi cinema. The duo were allegedly attacked by at least six men who were in the otherwise empty bus. According to reports, the duo were overpowered and the woman was then beaten with iron rods, stripped and gang-raped -- all while the bus was running on one of the city's busiest roads which also has police checkpoints. The duo were then thrown off the bus by the roadside and soon discovered by a passing police unit which rushed them to hospital. While the man is wounded but out of danger, the woman –- a student of physiotherapy -- has severe internal organ damage and is said to be battling for her life.

Police investigations have so far led to the arrest of five of the alleged six attackers, including the bus driver. One of the attackers has already confessed to the crime and when brought to court, said, “I should be hanged.” A manhunt for the remaining suspect is ongoing.

“This is really a matter of shame that such incidents are happening in metropolitan cities. There are many such cases in the interiors of our country which don't come to our knowledge,” said actress Kareena Kapoor at a press event to promote the upcoming Filmfare awards. “Saying that a woman should not go out at night should not be a solution to this problem. Being a modern woman, I don't support such statements. And being a modern woman, I like to party late... Our laws should be reassessed. Justice has to happen faster.”

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The incident has reinitiated debate over the death penalty, which though legal, is rarely carried out in India.

“We will seek the most severe punishment of life imprisonment for the culprits and we will send a proposal to the government for the death sentence for rapists,” New Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar told reporters. According to Indian law, rape currently carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison, while the death penalty is restricted to rare cases of murder and “waging war against the country.”

With social media abuzz, celebrities tweeted their views on the incident.

“On this public platform I dare not even attempt to mention the details of the rape case... even an animal would not behave so...” tweeted Amitabh Bachchan to his four million-plus Twitter followers, “The fear of system, of order, of conduct guided by justice, is fast disappearing. Is this the freedom that our elders fought for?,” he added.

“This is not the Delhi I grew up in... as politics degenerates, so do the streets. One reflective of the other. All sense of decency gone...” tweeted director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth). “If something deep in society has to change, it has to cut across divisions such as police, politicians and the rest of us. We all have to change. Every social and professional community needs to ask, what can we do to change attitudes towards women? That includes media,” he wrote.

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”We need to stop objectifying our women in what we call our second religion... Our films and our TV shows,” tweeted director Anurag Kashyap whose recent two-part epic Gangs of Wasseypur premiered at Cannes.

One of India's most acclaimed veteran actors, Anupam Kher (currently seen in Silver Linings Playbook) had a blunt response: “Hang Delhi Bus Rapists Publicly,” he tweeted and later added, “People who are trying to be logical or asking me to be sane in my reaction to Delhi bus rapists obviously NEVER had a mother, sister or a wife.”

“It's so scary that an independent woman in her own country cannot take a bus without the fear of being attacked. This is not just a crime against women, it's a crime against society,” tweeted actress Priyanka Chopra (the first Bollywood star to be signed by CAA).

She went on [caps Chopra's]: “A woman is not raped because she's out at night or wearing a short dress or drinking... She's raped cause SOMEONE bloody RAPED HER!! And there is no excuse or explanation for that!!... Is this India Shining? Is this even India? Where is the fear of the law? Of the government? It's shameful!”