NEW DELHI — Indian police have charged six men with murder, adding to accusations that they beat and gang-raped a woman on a New Delhi bus two weeks ago in a case that shocked the world.
The murder charges were laid Saturday after the woman died earlier in the day in a Singapore hospital, where she had been flown for treatment.
New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said the six face the death penalty if convicted, in a case that has triggered protests across India for greater protection for women from sexual violence, and raised questions about lax attitudes by police toward sexual crimes.
The tragedy has forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crime, forcing them to keep quiet and discouraging them from reporting it to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Police often refuse to accept complaints from those who are courageous enough to report the rapes, and the rare prosecutions that reach courts drag on for years.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was aware of the emotions the attack has stirred, adding it was up to all Indians to ensure that the young woman's death will not have been in vain.
The victim "passed away peacefully" early Saturday at Mount Elizabeth hospital in Singapore with her family and officials of the Indian Embassy by her side, Dr. Kevin Loh, the chief executive of the hospital, said in a statement.
The woman and a male friend, who have not been identified, were on a bus in New Delhi after watching a film on the evening of Dec. 16 when they were attacked by six men who raped her.
Indian riot police blocked major roads, imposed restrictions on "illegal assembly" and shut down subway stations Saturday as they braced for fresh demonstrations as politicians appealed for calm.
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"I join the nation in conveying to her family and friends my deepest condolences at this terrible loss," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement on his website, calling on citizens to channel their emotions constructively. "It is up to us all to ensure that her death will not have been in vain."
"RIP: India's Daughter," and "India's brave daughter," said TV station headlines as the victim's body along with her family were scheduled to be flown back from Singapore on a chartered aircraft Saturday afternoon.
Contributing: Los Angeles Times (MCT)