India

Delhi bus gang rape: Uproar in Indian parliament

A protest in Delhi on 29 November 2010 against the gang rape
Image caption Delhi has one of the highest rates of crime against women in India

There has been an uproar in India's parliament over the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a city bus in the capital, Delhi.

MPs from all parties have expressed their horror at the incident which has caused outrage in the country.

The student and her male friend were beaten, stripped and thrown out of the bus on Sunday evening.

The couple have been admitted to hospital, where the woman remains in a critical condition.

"She continues to be serious. She has responded to us once in the last 12 hours and that is a good sign, but we cannot rule her out of danger. She remains on ventilator," Safdarjung Hospital medical superintendent BD Athani told the BBC Hindi service.

Police have arrested the driver of the bus and detained several people.

Delhi's rape figures are far higher than other Indian cities of comparable size, correspondents say.

According to official statistics, 572 rapes were reported in Delhi last year. Police say they have registered 635 rape cases this year.

'Hang rapists'

On Tuesday, angry MPs in both houses set aside the regular business to discuss the gruesome rape case and demanded strict punishment for the criminals.

Senior leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sushma Swaraj called for the death penalty for rapists.

"What is the government doing to curb rape cases in the capital?" she asked. "The rapists should be hanged, we need tougher laws to stop rapes," she said in the Lok Sabha [lower house of parliament] .

Image caption There has been outrage in India over the incident

"I speak for the house when I ask the government to take the strongest measures to curb such incidents," Speaker Meira Kumar said.

In the Rajya Sabha [upper house] too, MPs demanded strict action against the rapists.

"How is it that these rapists think that they'll get away with it?" asked an angry Renuka Chowdhury of the Congress party.

Added the leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Ms Mayawati: "We need to ensure proper investigation, and strict punishment. It's not enough to just arrest them, but action should be so strict that no one should dare to act in such a manner again."

Senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said the government "must take moral responsibility" and work to prevent such incidents from happening in future.

"What is needed is to send a strong message to the perpetrators that strong action will be taken against them," he said.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde is due to make a statement in the parliament later in the day to explain what the government and Delhi police are doing to make the city safe.

On Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said she would be considering the setting up of a fast track court to "ensure speedy justice to the victim".

The woman and her friend had boarded the bus from Munirka area and were on their way to Dwarka in south-west Delhi.

They were returning after watching a film in a shopping centre in south Delhi, police said.

The couple were attacked by six to seven men, police said.

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