Family anxious to flee violence

By Imran Ali

A Northland chef is trying to expedite New Zealand visas for his Delhi-based family after the gang rape of a university student in the Indian capital has him fearing for their safety.

Ram Prakash, head chef at Shiraz Restaurant in central Whangarei, said India's reputation has been besmirched by the actions of five men who raped a 23-year-old woman for hours on a bus as it drove through Delhi.

She died of severe internal injuries last weekend, after being airlifted to a Singapore hospital for treatment. The attack triggered mass protests, particularly by women, and provoked a debate across India about the routine mistreatment of females.

Mr Prakash, who has a 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son, said a protest march that took place in the area where his family lived worried him.

His daughter is enrolled in a university and fears venturing out, considering the mass protests and the fact that the woman was raped in the city.

More than 630 rapes have been reported in Delhi this year but that is thought to be just a small proportion of those carried out.

"If these things are happening in the capital where the police, judiciary and the politicians are, where else will people feel safe?"

Mr Prakash came to New Zealand seven years ago and said that since obtaining permanent residency - but more so after the events in Delhi - he wants to bring his family to Whangarei.

"There will be ratbags everywhere but in India it's easy to get away with serious crimes through the inaction of either the police or the politicians and, quite often, the justice system lets people down," he said.

"Also, women usually don't complain because, if they do, people won't allow them to live peacefully. It's the stigma that is associated with going public.

"Under-reporting is also an issue but the marches throughout India will hopefully give women more courage to come forward."

Police have filed charges of rape, murder and other crimes after the Indian Government set up a special fast-track court to deal with crimes against women.

Murder carries the death penalty.

A rape is reported on average every 20 minutes in India.

"We all want the situation to improve and the massive street protests will, I hope, wake politicians from their slumber and deal with violence against women," Mr Prakash said.

- Northern Advocate

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