NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian officials announced Friday a broad campaign to protect women in New Delhi following the gang rape and brutal beating of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in the capital.
Police arrested a boy Thursday night, the fifth person detained in connection with the crime, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said. Authorities were hunting for the final assailant, he said. Those arrested were being charged with attempted murder in addition to kidnapping and rape.
The government is seeking life sentences for the assailants, Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters Friday.
"This is an incident which has shocked all of us," he said.
The attack sparked days of protests across the country from women demanding that authorities take tougher action to protect them against the daily threat of harassment and violence. The government said it is taking steps to address those concerns.
"There will not be any tolerance for crimes against women," Singh said.
Bus drivers in New Delhi will be required to display their identification prominently in the vehicles, buses are now required to remove tinting from their windows and plainclothes police are being placed on buses to protect female passengers, he said. In addition, chartered buses such as the one where the attack occurred will be impounded if they illegally ply for fares on the streets, he said.
Authorities are also cracking down on drunk driving and on loitering gangs of drunken youths, he said.
The victim and a companion were attacked after getting a ride on a chartered bus following a movie Sunday evening. Police said the men on the bus gang-raped her and beat her and her companion with iron rods as the bus drove through the city for hours, even passing through police checkpoints. The assailants eventually stripped the pair and dumped them on the side of a road.
Protesters marched Friday to the presidential mansion and toward Parliament, while theater troupes performed plays about women's safety in a park in central Delhi. A group blocked traffic near the hospital where the victim, who had severe internal injuries, was being treated.
Dr. B.D. Athani, the medical superintendent of Safdarjung Hospital, told reporters the victim was "stable, alert and conscious," but remained on a ventilator.
"We are ready to send the victim to anywhere in the world for treatment," Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said. "I have given that assurance to the parents of the girl that we will give every kind of help, no matter what it costs."
Parliamentarian M. Venkaiah Naidu said a special legislative committee would meet next week to take action to protect women.
The government, Singh said, was proposing laws to make it easier for attacked women to come forward, to ensure rape cases are dealt with swiftly in the nation's notoriously slow court system and for increasing the punishment for the crime to a possible death sentence.
"(The) people of Delhi will feel safe moving through the streets of the city, at any point of time, day or night. That is our objective," Singh said.
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