Across India, New Year celebrations will be reduced or canceled as the country continues to reel from the death of a young woman who was gang-raped two weeks ago.
The Indian Army has canceled its official celebrations and issued that advisory to all its outposts, to express solidarity with the 23-year-old victim, said WebIndia.
The states of Punjab and Haryana have followed suit.
President of the governing Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, has also said she will not be celebrating “in the wake of [the] gang-rape incident,” the BBC reports.
The return of the young woman’s body from the Mount Elizabeth hospital in Singapore and later cremation in Delhi on Sunday has not abated protests in the capital, Delhi, by women’s, student groups and ordinary citizens.
The victim was brutally gang raped by six men in Delhi on December 16, after she boarded a bus with a male companion who she reportedly intended to marry in February 2013.
The woman — a medical student — and her friend had been to see a film when they boarded the bus in the Munirka area of Delhi.
The pair were beaten with iron rods — one of these was later inserted into the woman’s body — before they were stripped and thrown off the moving bus by their attackers.
The extremity of the attack ignited incendiary protests in Delhi and Manipur, as outrage over rising sex crimes in India and the apparent failure of officialdom to deal with it spilled over.
While vigils for the victim continue, numerous businesses, hotels, clubs, and celebrities have announced they will either be canceling or toning down their New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Delhi’s Gymkhana Club has asked its 7,000 members to light candles, while the Chelmsford Club, the Delhi Golf Club, and the Press Club of India have decided to call off their celebrations altogether, said the BBC.
Many stars from Mumbai’s film industry have also joined the nation in mourning. Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan and his wife, Jaya Bachchan said that “all plans in the Bachchan family for the New Year have been cancelled,” Recent News reports.
“Let there be no New Year celebrations across the country. It will be a major tribute to the departed soul.”
The family of the victim has also spoken out. In an interview with The Indian Express, the father of the victim said:
“My wife had hardly eaten in the last two weeks. She was exhausted… I think she was not ready to face the shock of our daughter’s death, despite doctors always telling us that she was serious. She cried intermittently all of Saturday, but it got worse on the flight back home.”
The brother of the victim added:
“The fight has just begun. We want all the accused hanged, and we will fight for that, till the end.”
The six men arrested for the rape have now been charged with murder. Delhi police spokesman, Rajan Bhagat, has said that if they are convicted they will face the death penalty.
According to the BBC, Delhi authorities’ plans to launch a telephone helpline for women in distress have been delayed due to a “technical glitch.” The 24-hour helpline number “181” will operate out of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s office and will be connected with all the 185 police stations across the city.
According to official figures, a woman is raped in Delhi every 18 hours. This latest attack has sparked widespread calls for new legislation, penalties, and a change in a culture many Indians say tolerates sexual harassment and violence against women.
Some of the measures proposed by officials include background checks on bus drivers and staff, the banning of tinted windows and curtains on buses, more police night patrols, a drive to recruit more women into the police force, and the posting of convicted rapists details on the Delhi Police website, the BBC reports.
In national media reports the victim is now called “Damini,” in reference to a 1993 Bollywood film whose lead female character fights for a housemaid who was sexually assaulted.
Increasing calls for chemical castration of sex attackers and a scrapping of the “two-finger test” for rape victims are also under review.