SINGAPORE/NEW DELHI - An Indian woman whose gang rape in New Delhi triggered violent protests died of her injuries on Saturday in a Singapore hospital, bringing a security lockdown in Delhi and recognition from India's prime minister that social change is needed.
The Indian capital braced for a new wave of protests, closing metro stations and banning vehicles from the city center district where young activists had converged to demand improved women's rights. The news came in the early hours of the morning in India and there were no signs of protests as morning broke.
The 23-year-old medical student, severely beaten, raped and thrown out of a moving bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday for specialist treatment.
"We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4:45 a.m. on Dec 29, 2012 (2045 GMT Friday). Her family and officials from the High Commission (embassy) of India were by her side," Mount Elizabeth Hospital Chief Executive Officer Kelvin Loh said in a statement.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement he was deeply saddened by the death and described the emotions associated with her case as "perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change.
"It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channelize these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action."
Delhi's Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, expressed revulsion.
"It is a shameful moment for me not just as a chief minister but also as a citizen of this country," she said.
The woman, who has not been identified, and a male friend were returning home from the cinema by bus on the evening of December 16 when, media reports say, six men on the bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. The reports say a rod was used in the rape, causing internal injuries. Both were thrown from the bus. The male friend survived the attack.
Singh's government has been battling criticism that it was tone-deaf to the outcry that followed the attack and was heavy handed in its response to the protests in the Indian capital.
Most rapes and other sex crimes in India go unreported and offenders are rarely punished, women's rights activists say. But the brutality of the December 16 assault sparked public outrage and calls for better policing and harsher punishment for rapists.