Another Outrage: Delhi Bus-Rape Suspect Found Dead

Ram Singh, one of the five suspects on trial in New Delhi for December’s gang-rape case, was found dead in his cell in the capital’s Tihar Jail early Monday morning

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Manish Swarup / AP

The mother of Ram Singh, the man accused of driving the bus on which a 23-year-old woman was gang raped in December 2012, cries as she speaks to journalists outside the family's home in New Delhi on March 11, 2013

Ram Singh, one of the five suspects on trial in New Delhi for December’s gang-rape case, was found dead in his cell in the capital’s Tihar Jail early Monday morning. Officials have said that the 33-year-old Singh, the alleged mastermind in the brutal sexual assault that captured the world’s attention last year, was found at 5 a.m., having hanged himself with his clothes. Singh and four other suspects have been on trial since January in a special fast-track court in New Delhi for the rape and murder of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student who, along with a male friend, they allegedly lured onto a private bus on the night of Dec. 16 and violently assaulted. (A sixth suspect in the case is being tried separately as a juvenile.) The male victim sustained minor wounds, and the female victim died less than two weeks later in a hospital in Singapore.

Singh’s death may flag yet another crack in a beleaguered criminal-justice system whose weaknesses has been on stark display as the Delhi gang-rape case has unfolded. Ram Singh was being held in a high-security section of Tihar Jail, where officials told Indian media that he and the other five suspects were on suicide watch. Jail officials told local media that Singh’s cellmates were present during the night, as was a guard. How, then, this key suspect in one of the most high-profile court cases in modern Indian history could commit suicide is the latest question that authorities will have to answer. A government probe was immediately ordered into Singh’s death.

(PHOTOS: In India, a Rape Sparks Violent Protests and Demands for Justice)

Until the results of the inquiry are in, the conditions that Singh was living under at Tihar will likely remain murky. Tihar Jail is known for being one of the more progressive incarceration facilities in India, with extensive work programs for prisoners. But it’s also known for being overcrowded, and has been, in the past, almost at twice its allotted capacity. Rajat Mitra, a clinical psychologist and director of the Swanchetan Society for Mental Health, has worked extensively in the high-security area where Singh allegedly committed suicide. “It’s extremely crowded. Even in the night, a lot of people would be awake. I would doubt how he could manage to isolate himself,” says Mitra. Mitra says the case is “very uncommon.” In the 15 years he was working with sexual criminals at Tihar, he says he does not know of one case of suicide or attempted suicide, nor did he see a pattern of remorse among the men he studied that was in keeping with suicidal tendencies. “This raises lot more questions than it answers,” says Mitra.

One of the things Mitra stresses is the need for formal monitoring of the inmates. In January, Sunil Gupta, a law officer at Tihar, told TIME that the five suspects being held during their trial were given counseling per the jail’s protocol. But he also said the suspects were not treated any differently than other inmates currently under trial. “Authorities don’t take any special care working with them just because it is a high-profile case,” said Gupta.

After the Dec. 16 attack, men and woman took to the streets by the thousands to protest the inability of authorities to provide basic safety on the streets of Delhi and rural swaths of the country alike. The particulars of the Dec. 16 case — the banality of a young couple going home from a movie at the mall, and the brutality of gang rape on a moving bus that partially disemboweled the female victim — set off a round of soul-searching about how India arrived at the point where this kind of crime could unfold almost literally in plain sight in the heart of the capital. Sexual crimes are not uncommon in India, and while their incidence is lower than in some Western countries, experts say cases are widely underreported, due in large part to women’s lack of trust in the police. The cases that are reported are often slow to move through the justice system, when they move at all. “The general security capacity in India is completely degraded whether we are trying to protect women, or fight terrorism,” says Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi. “Our capacity for maintaining the rule of law is abysmal.”

(MORE: Should the Indian Gang-Rape Victim Remain Anonymous?)

After a sluggish initial response to the public outrage in December, both the federal and municipal governments responded with a series of measures designed to beef up safety for women. Earlier this year, President Pranab Muhkerjee signed a new law that, among other things, allows for capital punishment for rape cases in which the victim dies or ends up in a vegetative state. The move met wide calls for the execution of the Delhi gang-rape suspects but was also criticized for being too limited in scope and for focusing only on punitive rather than preventative measures.

Many look at Singh’s own life circumstances as evidence of a failed system. Raised in a small farming village in Rajasthan, Singh moved at a young age with his brother and co-accused, Mukesh, and their family to a neighborhood in southern New Delhi occupied primarily by other migrant workers looking for a better life in the capital. Without any formal schooling that family members in the village recall, Singh and Mukesh were left largely to look after themselves in the new city, neighbors said. In the years since, neighbors also remember the brothers being difficult and at times violent, but do not recall the police ever being summoned on account of their intimidating behavior.

In 2009, Ram Singh appeared on a popular reality-TV show called Aap Ki Kachehri, in which citizens consented to bring their disputes, which were not in court, to be arbitrated on the spot by a well-known retired police officer and social activist, Kiran Bedi. When Singh was named by the Indian media in December as a suspect in the gang rape, Bedi says she immediately remembered his appearance on the show. Singh had fractured his arm in an accident while driving and brought his employer on the show to demand compensation. In the course of the episode, it came out that, when Singh had the accident, he was driving the bus without authorization and with expired insurance. “He was obviously a bully … and obviously unrepentant,” recalls Bedi. A police officer for 35 years, Bedi has long been advocating for police to increase their tracking of petty criminals before they move onto worse crime, ruining their lives and endangering innocent citizens. “When you don’t take care of minor offenses, they graduate to become major offenses,” Bedi says. “This was a preventable crime.”

(MORE: India’s Gang-Rape Case: As Accused Go to Court, Unease Settles over Delhi)

In the weeks after the Dec. 16 attack, many in India expressed hope that the flurry of official activity signified that India had finally arrived at a tipping point; that there was no going back to the bad old days when horrific sexual crimes got buried, whether at the bottom of case files or the back of newspapers’ crime blotters. Others take a far more pessimistic view. Sahni has watched many past attempts to strengthen India’s security systems get rolled out to much fanfare, only to fizzle out over time without any enduring political will to back them. “Tipping points only happen over glasses of single-malt whisky in the drawing rooms of Delhi,” says Sahni. “There are no real tipping points in India. There is a stupid kind of optimism that things can’t get worse … but there is no bottom to how far we can go down. And we are going down.”

— With reporting by Raksha Kumar / New Delhi

MORE: New Delhi’s Women Problem: What Does It Take to Make a Society Safe?

35 comments
Shivamp
Shivamp

Even if Singh was killed by other inmates so what. One less rapist alive.

Samantha
Samantha

I am not an Indian and live in the US and when I heard the crime this Singh guy committed it broke my heart like so many around the world. But the picture of his mother weeping made my heart cry in pain for her, I am a mother too and no parent wants their child to become such savage, every parent wants their children to become successful in life and to lead a good life. This mother is in pain and you should be ashamed for publishing her grieve, yes her son was a criminal but he was still her son and she's in pain for losing him, she's as much victim as the Jyoti's parents. May the almighty have mercy on her and her family for enduring such pain. My heart breaks and I'll never forget her face.. Shows how much pain she's going through.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

It's a shame to publish the photograph of Ram Singh's Mother weeping.  What did U expect she'll be rejoicing?  But what that guy did to that poor girl is much more terrible.

LoriPetryshen
LoriPetryshen

An Indian friend of mine once told me, "Every Indian man is rapist, or a potential rapist."

I ignored the comment as over the top but a recent report from Government of India concludes that 55% of children raised in India will face sexual abuse. The perpetrator will often be a family member or a close relative. (Source: "Study on Child Abuse: India 2007". Published by the Government of India, Ministry of Women and Child Development)

This rape culture and the brutality might seem shocking to an outsider in the West but for Indians this is common.

JohnPrentice
JohnPrentice

No not an outrage.  Probably manslaughter, but, seriously, who cares?

rymnd87
rymnd87

Another outrage??Huh? How about "Justice Served" as the right title? This fellow was en-route to a hangman's noose anyways, probably decided to get it over with, or maybe some of the inmates also "encouraged" him. It is a known fact that criminals who have committed sexual crimes are at the very bottom of the social hierarchy in prison, other criminals despise them. So what should the authorities do, if they keep the perp in solitary, he would surely become mental and try suicide, if they keep him with other inmates, they may try a fast track prison justice on the perp, it would be better not to spend more time on this, the perp is dead and justice has been served! 

TLM
TLM

Does ANYONE Really Care ?

What about the Victim and family.

Curry Enema, that will stir up som crap, Worse than a SeaGull swollowing an AlkaSeltzer.

Public Humiliation with Stones, Then Maybe, Gang Rapes will stop ?

Punam
Punam

Job well done, thats how Iconic justice system works. 

Lovesfruitbats
Lovesfruitbats

May the other POS also choose 'suicide' to save people money and may they rot in Hades for their crimes.  Karma is a bitch and I'm sure these men should come back as women (and be aware of their past) to be raped repeatedly to truly know what they did and FEEL IT.  And supposedly this country carps about the Americans....clean up your own dungheap first....

RichSnyder
RichSnyder

I wouldn't say the dead victim's boyfriend had "minor wounds" - I believe he needed a wheelchair for a while.   

I don't care about this dead rapist (though am glad he's dead - and they SHOULD give rope to the others) but do care about the bad treatment of women in India and South Africa - which had a 17 year old (Anena Boysen) raped, disemboweled, with fingers and both legs broken (the rapists also stuck a broken jagged bottle in her abdomen after strewing her intestines around the ground) - articles say 25% of men admit to raping a woman.  The men in these countries have major problems.

DeeptaVijayakumar
DeeptaVijayakumar

..and the Powers That Be write about 'outrage', their own horrors inflicted upon other nations easily forgotten.

perdostos
perdostos

His lawyer said: "There were no circumstances which could have led to Ram Singh committing suicide... He was very happy." Merciless thug, that rape and kill young woman was happy! I hope you will get into the hell. 

UdaiSingh
UdaiSingh

Indian tax payer escapes burden to maintain a most foul & rapacious beast who with his brother & friends subjected a helpless girl to extreme horrors. First light of Monday has bought us this good news of demise of the most horrible face of Indian man.

My views may now pass test of political correctness, but I feel elated - it is for me burning of Ravan as in Ramayan.

Shivamp
Shivamp

@Samantha This guy deserved to die in that prison. There is no doubt that he raped that girl. I am an Indian living in US. In the US, I would not have killed this guy because the justice system does not allow anyone take laws into their hands. The only thing justice system in America allows to kill someone is self- defense and protect someone from harms way. If I was visting India, I would killed him in a heartbeat.  Somewhere I even heard he was seen on the bus by so many people. Samantha you need to think about how much the victim suffered. This guy would not have been arrested if all political members were already re-elected. The police don't want to do the job because they don't care. The minister is stupid enough to provide those 5 men with security. Things like these make me not want to have children. 

Shivamp
Shivamp

@LoriPetryshen  Why don't you move to Iceland if you think all Indian men are rapists acting as if no whites are rapists. Don't worry Iceland everybody is white.

Samantha
Samantha

@LoriPetryshen Are you effing kidding me? I am an American born and raised in the US and trust me women here suffer as much if not more than those in India, women/children are raped daily here and some are even gang raped, you're an idiot for suggesting the West doesn't have the same issues India has. Just today 2 boys were found guilty for raping a young girl at a party while she was unconscious while they video taped her. To make matters worse they sent the video to the whole school they went to.. Women are seen as sex object in many places here.. No matter where you go women are facing problems..

sakthimba
sakthimba

@LoriPetryshen First i should ask sorry for the situation that made you to have a bad image on indian men.. you should understand the facts behind the Rape cases and change the thought about indian men.. The people who are basically had hormonial problems from their childhood are penerated by the communication systems which are available in india and provides adult contents and fully porn files ( Almost of Porn sites surfing by indians are hosted and maintaining in european and american countries). Those sites are earning much by providind ads in other indian sites( Social networking, gaming, job portal sites) of youngsters most wished sites and televisions too. 

rymnd87
rymnd87

@LoriPetryshen Kind of like saying every American is a potential gunman, pure horse****. Sounds like your "Indian" friend has some pretty dark thoughts, probably wise to keep him/her on a suicide watch!

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@LoriPetryshen So U are one of those who see everything NICE about West and everything BAD about India.  How can U even suggest that something like RAPE is a common thing in India.  However racist U might be, calling it rape-culture is simply outrageous.  

It's the Indians who are protesting against it.  It's the Indians who have decided that enough is enough.  Now the situation has reached intolerable levels.

Objectification, Commodification of Woman for publicity purposes is something which is done in Ur favourite Western Culture.  Unfortunately due to international sporting events, that culture of Cheer-Leading and the like is being imported to India in recent times.  So  U better don't talk about respecting women putting on a fake sanctimonious look.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@LoriPetryshen Generalization of something sooo serious amounts to defaming the entire society and every man in the society.  However genuine Ur feelings might be.  U can't use the word "every" in the sense U used it.  This is highly offensive and legally wrong.

Shivamp
Shivamp

@rymnd87 you are right about this it should be justice served.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@rymnd87 TIME has some twisted policy about India, I guess. It's unclear about how to deal with a NEWS when it's about India.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@Punam While there's nothing to mourn about the death of that accused, there's nothing to be proud of it either.  It's a security failure.  Surely not a sign of "Iconic Justice System".

Shivamp
Shivamp

@Lovesfruitbats I agree either suicide, let them walk without the security during court time or allow other inmates or hungry k-9 equivalent dogs to be unleased on them in prison. 

RichSnyder
RichSnyder

@perdostos others also said the trial was going well for the prosecution, he faced the death penalty, and had been beaten and raped in prison.  The lawyers for these rapists will say anything.

TLM
TLM

HASH Head Alertt !!!!

Shivamp
Shivamp

@UdaiSingh sahi bohla paji. In logo ko fasi abhi deni chaiye ya bhuke 250 pound kute ko unleash karne chaiye.