Indian policeman injured in gang-rape protest dies

An Indian policeman injured in clashes during a protest over a gang-rape in New Delhi died on Tuesday, a police spokesman said, as much of the city centre remained sealed off following the violence.

Subash Tomar, a 47-year-old constable deployed at the India Gate monument on Sunday to control the protests, was beaten up by a mob and rushed to hospital by the police.

Eight people have been arrested for the attack and have been charged with murder, New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told AFP.

"These men had pelted stones at Tomar and had used a stick to beat the police official," Bhagat said. 

Tomar's funeral took place on Tuesday and he was cremated in New Delhi with "full state honours," Bhagat added.

More than 50 policemen were injured in Sunday's violence as officers struggled to quell increasing outrage over sex crimes following the gang-rape of a 23-year-old student.

Tomar's cousin Ajay, who was in the hospital to claim the body, said the constable had joined the police in 1985 and had never spent a single festival with the family.

"My cousin was always out on streets maintaining law and order. The mob attacked him for no reason. They just killed him," said Ajay Tomar.

Much of central Delhi remains sealed off after a wave of violent protests against the student's gang-rape in the capital on December 16 and over a surge in violence against women.

The rape victim's condition deteriorated on Monday night and she "continues to be in the intensive care unit and is having respiratory problems", said M. Mishra, a doctor at Safdarjung Hospital.

In a rare televised address on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged for calm following the weekend clashes in New Delhi and vowed to punish the rapists for their "monstrous" crime.

Meanwhile President Pranab Mukherjee has also appealed to the youth to maintain law and order.

"The anger of the youth should not overcome reason and there is need for practical action," Mukherjee said, according to reports.

Police barricaded roads leading to India Gate, an imposing war memorial in the centre of the city that has become a hub of the protests, mostly by college students. Many metro rail stations in fog-shrouded Delhi were also closed.

"Today is Christmas but we cannot step out of our houses because of the police restrictions," Anita Kumar, a mother of three daughters told Hindi news channel Aaj Tak.

Protests across India over the last week against sex crimes have denounced the police and government, with the largest in New Delhi at the weekend prompting officers to cordon off areas around government buildings.

More than 100 people were injured, including dozens of policemen.

"Protest is important. It shakes the conscience of society, it brings people close to change, it makes them feel part of the change," feminist author Urvashi Butalia wrote in an editorial in the Hindu newspaper.

"Rape is not something that occurs by itself. It is part of the continuing and embedded violence in society that targets women on a daily basis," she added.

A significant section of protesters are demanding death sentences for the accused in the rape case and opposition parties have joined the demonstrations, mostly organised through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

The current maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment, which is a "very harsh punishment", Law Minister Ashwani Kumar told the NDTV news channel, rejecting calls for executions.

"Some people say it is even more difficult than the death penalty because you suffer a feeling of death every day inside prison."

Traditionally conservative India's rapid economic growth has thrown open new job opportunities for women and increased their financial independence but activists say many men see the trend as a threat to male dominance.

Almost 90 percent of the 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year were against women, with the number of rapes in the capital rising 17 percent to 661 this year, according to official figures.

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