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Northeast mourns

Dec. 29: The Northeast today mourned the death of the 23-year-old Delhi gangrape victim with a demand for exemplary punishment to the culprits as well those security personnel accused of perpetrating sexual violence in the region.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, in an official communiqué, said he was shocked by the heinous crime and that the death of the victim had hurt him deeply.

He said his government would take all possible measures to prevent any such incident in the state.

His Arunachal Pradesh counterpart, Nabam Tuki, too, expressed shock.

“We will not tolerate any crime — petty or major — against women in our state. Any women-related offence will be dealt with using stringent laws and offenders will not be spared in any case,” he said.

There was also a solidarity rally in Shillong. Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma said, “A thorough look at the prevailing system to address this menace is the need of the hour.”

A comprehensive action plan is, therefore, required which should involve the government and the people, as any change we want can only take place when the people themselves get involved in the process. This problem is serious and we all need to concertedly strive towards a permanent solution.”

Samujjal Bhattacharyya, adviser of North East Students’ Organisation, told The Telegraph in Guwahati that the death of the rape victim should be a wake-up call for those sitting in Delhi to initiate very strong steps to ensure safety of women.

Bhattacharyya said the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, must be repealed immediately as it provided legal immunity to the army and other central security forces for even heinous crimes like rape in the insurgency-prone Northeast.

Shocked Guwahatians took out peaceful marches and protests in the city. Senior citizens and mothers participated in the Guwahati rally to express their anguish and to reiterate the demand for capital punishment to those involved in the crime.

“I am a mother of a four-month-old daughter. I could not confine myself to home today after hearing of the tragic demise of the rape victim and came out to join a demonstration and candlelit procession,” said Roop Rekha Devi, a resident of Guwahati’s Uzan Bazar area who participated in the protest programme organised by India Against Corruption in front of the historic Dighalipukhuri.

Several women’s organisations, under the banner of Nirjatan Birudhi Ekya Manch, also took out rallies in Guwahati demanding death penalty for the culprits at the earliest. The Assam State Commission for Women, All Assam Students’ Union and Asam Sahitya Sabha, too, demanded capital punishment.

“Women unite, take back the night” — these words, imprinted on a black banner, said it all in Shillong this evening. Hundreds of people from all walks of life gathered at the Don Bosco Square, Laitumkhrah, in the Meghalaya capital to express solidarity with those mourning for the 23-year-old Delhi gangrape victim who succumbed to her injuries today.

The candlelight vigil, which was followed by a brief march and speeches, was organised by the Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) led by Agnes Kharshiing. The vigil was also a token of solidarity with the 18-year-old who was allegedly gangraped in Williamnagar, East Garo Hills, on December 13 and all other victims of rape.

“Strict punishment should be meted out to those police personnel, politicians, doctors and government lawyers who tamper with and create delays in rape cases,” Kharshiing said while demanding that Parliament should immediately sit to put in place stringent mechanisms under the criminal law.

Tripura Women Commission chairperson Purnima Roy demanded amendment of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to pave the way for stricter punitive provisions for rape and fast tracking of trials in incidents of crimes against women.

The Nagaland Pradesh Congress Mahila Committee and Manipur PCC said history would not forgive India if the rapists were spared without exemplary punishment.

Northeast Network, an NGO, will take out a candlelit procession from Dighalipukhuri in Guwahati tomorrow to mourn the rape victim’s death.