A prominent activist-politician on Tuesday began an indefinite hunger strike in the Indian capital, demanding stern punishment for rapists after a young veterinarian was brutally gang-raped and murdered last week in the southern city Hyderabad that caused nationwide outrage.
Swati Maliwal, who heads the Delhi Commission of Women, the city government’s statutory body to investigate and examine matters related to safety and security of women, asked the central government to establish new fast-track courts across the country, including 45 such facilities in New Delhi, for speedy prosecution of rape suspects.
Maliwal’s demands include execution of death row convicts found guilty of raping and murdering Jyoti Singh, popularly known as Nirbhaya (the fearless one), a case which shook the country in 2012 due to its brutality and violence.
She also demanded the recruitment of 66,000 new officers into the Delhi Police.
“Once these demands are accepted by the center, only then I will end my hunger strike,” tweeted Maliwal.
The activist carried out a similar 10-day hunger strike last year demanding the death penalty for child rapists.
Hundreds of women from different age-groups gathered to support Maliwal in her demonstration, which took place in the center of the national capital.
Dozens of students participated in another demonstration in the southern city of Bengaluru demanding capital punishment for rapists.
Similar demonstrations were held on Monday in other major cities, including Kolkata (east).
Protests have continued across the country since the Nov. 27 gruesome rape-murder in Hyderabad that sent shockwaves across the country and grabbed headlines.
The victim, a 26-year-old vet, was waylaid by a group of four men, who first deflated the tires of her motorcycle and on the pretext of helping her in getting it repaired, carried the woman to a room where she was gang-raped before being strangled.
The accused then allegedly burned the corpse after dousing it with petrol.
Laws against sexual violence were strengthened in India after the Nirbhaya case, in which the victim was raped and tortured by six men in a moving bus in New Delhi, with the crime resulting in nationwide protests and discussion on sexual violence.
The incident was seen as a turning point on issues of sexual violence, but similar cases have continued to take place since then.
India was in 2018 ranked as the world’s most dangerous place for women due to the high risk of sexual violence, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey.
A report by India’s National Crime Records Bureau, which collects nationwide crime data across the country, said nearly 360,000 cases of violence against women were reported in 2017.
The report published last month for the latest year to be surveyed suggests that the number of such cases has been increasing and, in 2016, it was 338,000 while 320,000 cases were registered in 2015.
“Cruelty by husband or his relatives” accounted for nearly 28 percent of the crimes against women while “assaults with intent to outrage her modesty” comprised nearly 22 percent, followed by “kidnapping and abduction” with 20.5 percent and “rape” with 7 percent of the reported cases.