One of the six men accused of brutally gang-raping a young woman and assaulting her male friend in New Delhi stunned the court on Wednesday with a startling confession.
"I admit to my crime. Hang me," said Vijay Sharma, a 20-year-old gym instructor, according to NDTV.
Another of the accused, a 19-year-old fruit seller, also admitted that he was guilty.
"I am ashamed. I have committed…a big crime," said Pawan Gupta.
Sharma and Gupta, along with four other men, stand accused of gang-raping a 23-year-old student on a bus before "savagely" beating her and a male companion. The merciless rape reportedly lasted for many hours. The AP writes:
Police said six men raped the woman and savagely beat her and her companion with iron rods on a bus driving around the city -- passing through several police checkpoints -- before stripping them and dumping them on the side of the road Sunday night.
Delhi police chief Neeraj Kumar said four men have been arrested and a search was underway for the other two.
The young woman, reportedly a paramedical student, is said to be in a hospital in critical condition. According to the Hindustan Times, she underwent a fifth surgery on Wednesday, during which portions of her intestine were removed. Doctors say the woman "has lost most of her intestine."
The horrific gang rape and near-fatal assault has reportedly "triggered outrage and anger" across India. The AP reports throngs of Indians flooded the streets in protest on Wednesday, demanding "action from authorities who have long ignored persistent violence and harassment against women."
This week, Sushma Swaraj, a prominent opposition leader and member of parliament, spoke publicly about the gang rape trial, calling for swift action and strict punishment.
"We demand that the case be tried in 30 days and the guilty be hanged," she said, according to IBN Live. "The 23-year-old girl was with a male friend and it was not too late either. It was 9:30 p.m. And if a woman is not safe even then, then it is a shame. If this girl survives, she will be a living dead. These people should be given capital punishment," she concluded.
Chairwoman of the National Commission for Women, Mamta Sharma, said Wednesday that a life sentence may be more appropriate for the men found guilty of what was was described as a "heinous" and "upsetting" crime by India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh.
"Rapists must not be hanged, they should be given a life sentence and made to suffer everyday," she said.
According to NDTV, three of the accused men were presented before a court on Wednesday, with Vijay Sharma and Pawan Gupta reportedly admitting to involvement in the crime.
Sharma, who reportedly told the court that he deserved to be "hanged," has allegedly denied raping the woman, but said he did assault her male companion.
The third man, identified as "Mukesh," did not confess but agreed to undergo an identification test, to which the woman's male friend will be a participate.
Authorities say that the fourth man in custody, Ram Singh, identified as Mukesh's brother, is likely the man who led the attack on the woman and her friend. Investigators have described Singh as "cold and remorseless."
"Initially, he denied everything. But when he began to open up, he chose to divulge each detail, with no repentance. Such brutality does not affect him," a police officer familiar with the case told the Times of India.
Singh has refused to undergo an identification test and has yet to appear before a court.
Sexual violence against women has long been a serious and widespread problem in India, where perpetrators of such crimes are rarely punished.
This week alone, the country has been embattled by two other horrific gang rape cases. On Wednesday, police reportedly "fished out the body of a 10-year-old girl from a canal" in Bihar state's Saharsa district. It is believed the girl was gang-raped and murdered before her body was dumped.
Elsewhere in Bihar, a young schoolgirl was reportedly admitted to the hospital this week after she was raped by several men, the New York Times reports.
"We have been screaming ourselves hoarse demanding greater security for women and girls. But the government, the police, and others responsible for public security have ignored the daily violence that women face," said Sehba Farooqui, a women's rights activist, according to the AP.