Sonia Gandhi meets gang-rape victim's family, cries

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi hugged the mother of the dead gang-raped victim several times and both women cried, as the UPA chairperson Saturday evening went to "share the sorrow" of the family of the 23-year-old woman whose brutal rape led to nationwide outrage.

Sonia Gandhi along with her son, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, and some MPs went to the victim's house in south west Delhi and were there for an hour, from 6 p.m. onwards. The visit came on a day a city court framed charges against five of the six rapists.

"Sonia Gandhi and the woman's mother held hands, and both hugged several times and cried," a source who was present at the meeting told IANS.

"There was no agenda to Sonia Gandhi meeting the family.. they just went to express solidarity with the parents of the young woman," the source added.

"Sonia Gandhi told them she had wanted to meet them earlier, and assured that justice will be done."

This was the first formal meeting between the United Progressive Alliance chairperson and the woman's family. Sonia Gandhi along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had gone to receive the body of the trainee physiotherapist when it arrived from Singapore Dec 30 early morning.

The Gandhis shared tea with the family, which was served by the victim's mother, the source added.

Rahul Gandhi sat next to the father and her two younger brothers and discussed the case with them. "He shared his feelings about the incident with them," the source said.

The victim's family remarked that the Gandhis too had gone through loss in life, the source said. Sonia Gandhi's mother-in-law, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, and her husband former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, were assassinated.

The mother told Sonia about what all her daughter had gone through - from the Dec 16 gang-rape on a bus, to her long battle with life in Safdarjang Hospital for 13 days, and then in a Singapore hospital where she died of multi-organ failure on Dec 29.

Both sides also discussed the mass outrage over the gang-rape and death, and the victim's family voiced their sadness over the protest violence and the death of a Delhi Police constable, the source said.

"The parents wished Rahul Gandhi on his becoming the Congress vice president," the source added.

The trainee physiotherapist was brutally gang-raped on a moving bus on Dec 16 night and she and her male friend were thrown off the bus after an hour, bloodied and naked. The case led to nationwide outrage and demand for strengthening anti-rape laws.

The government has passed an ordinance strengthening laws against sexual harrassment.