Muted New Year’s celebrations in India after gang-rape victim's death

December 31, 2012

— One day after the cremation of a woman who died after being gang-raped and beaten, many Indians decided not to celebrate New Year’s Eve, in tribute to the victim who has come to be called “India’s braveheart.”

President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh canceled all their official events to mark the new year. The defense forces, known for their boisterous New Year’s Day revelry, instructed all formations across the nation to cancel their scheduled parties.

According to the Press Trust of India, the head of India’s ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, asked members not to greet her, setting the note for the somber mood that prevailed across the country.

New Delhi’s exclusive British-era club the Delhi Gymkhana canceled its musical event and asked its members to light candles in memory of the medical student who was gang-raped and brutalized by six men in a moving bus on Dec. 16 in the nation’s capital.

“No one felt like celebrating, and the club mourns tonight,” club member Samir Singh, 45, said in a telephone interview from his home. “Our thoughts go out to the family, and there is nothing to rejoice anyway.”


Rising incidents of rape in India (The Washington Post/Source: India’s National Crime Records Bureau)

Five men were arrested last week, and one who is younger than 18 has been sent to a state-run correctional facility.

Dozens of protesters in New Delhi continued their sit-ins. The capital’s memorial arch, India Gate, which has long been the nerve center of late-night revelry in the capital, has been blocked and barricaded by heavy police and paramilitary deployment.

“We used to go to India Gate to ring in the new year,” said Digvijay Dahiya, a 38-year-old real estate agent from Gurgaon, an upscale suburb. “But today we can’t, and we don’t want to.”

Gurgaon’s main mall-lined street, the site of a horrific public molestation of a young woman on New Year’s Eve last year, was also closed to traffic and revelers.

A live concert scheduled for Monday night featuring the controversial Punjabi-language rapper Honey Singh, whose lyrics have come under fire for being demeaning to women, was canceled by a hotel in Gurgaon. A police officer in the northern city of Lucknow filed a complaint against Singh for his “extremely vulgar and indecent songs,” on a day when the hashtag “misogynistic” was trending on Twitter in India.

Indians on Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with calls for toning down the celebrations and for boycotting parties.

Governments in the largely feudal northern states of Haryana and Punjab, which border New Delhi, canceled all functions.

Rama Lakshmi has been with The Post's India bureau since 1990. She is a staff writer and India social media editor for Post World.
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