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Rape victim flies home, Delhi sorry
Sketches of the assailanys released by Delhi police

New Delhi, Oct. 16: Hours after the European diplomat raped in the capital flew home today, a senior secretary of the foreign ministry personally conveyed India’s “deep regret” to Swiss ambassador Walter Gyger and assured him that all steps would be taken to punish the guilty.

Investigations into Tuesday’s crime are continuing, but till late this evening, there was no breakthrough.

Shashank, secretary (Europe, Africa and Americas), met Gyger this afternoon and officially expressed regret and concern. The meeting shows the seriousness with which South Block is viewing the incident, particularly ahead of next month’s scheduled visit by Swiss President Pascal Couchpin.

The Swiss ambassador later said: “We are really shocked and saddened over the incident. It is not only about the Swiss, but it has raised concerns about the safety and security of the entire diplomatic community in Delhi.”

“We do not know how this can happen in a city like Delhi,” he told PTI. The ambassador, however, expressed full faith in the authorities’ ability to identify and punish the guilty.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has asked police to expedite the probe into the “shocking and shameful” incident.

But with parties in poll mode, Advani, who also heads the home ministry, faced a barrage from Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

“The law and order situation (in the capital) has been allowed to deteriorate to such a level that virtually no one is safe,” she said in a letter to Advani. The capital’s law and order is his ministry’s responsibility.

She said the series of rape and molestation incidents across the capital in recent months mirrored the fact that the city was unsafe for women. “I am sure you and your government will agree that the protection of the rights and dignity of women is one of the prime requisites of civilised society,” she said.

Before her torment could become a political issue, the 35-year-old victim left for home early this morning. The attache in the Swiss embassy flew out after describing Delhi as “not a safe place”.

The diplomatic community seemed in agreement, in view of the series of “outrageous” sexual assaults on women in Delhi.

Several embassies and missions took up the issue in the regular morning meetings and discussed steps to improve safety and security of its employees. According to sources in some Western missions, internal advisories cautioning women diplomats and employees about their movements within the capital were issued.

They have been advised not to walk home alone, not to drive alone and, if they do, drive with doors and windows locked, park cars in well-lit places and keep an eye out for loiterers.

But these haven’t been enough to dispel the fear that has gripped the women employees and diplomats.

Many of them complained that they often have to work till late and are trying to make their own arrangements for safety, like requesting male colleagues to accompany them and asking security personnel to escort them to their cars.

In the foreign ministry, the protocol division is tasked with the security of diplomats. South Block sources said though the assault was unfortunate, it is not fair to jump to conclusions about safety and security in Delhi from just one attack.

“Such things can happen anywhere in the world. Though we are trying to take all possible steps to ensure that those responsible for the crime are identified and punished at the earliest, it is difficult to take steps that will prevent such things from happening ever,” an official said.

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