NEW DELHI // Police arrested six men in Madhya Pradesh yesterday in connection with the gang rape of a Swiss woman on Saturday, with police saying five of the men confessed to the crime.
The six were among the more than 20 people questioned since the attack, said Avensh Kumar Budholiya, a police official in Datia.
"Five men have confessed to gang raping the woman and attacking the husband," Mr Budholiya said. "We have also arrested a sixth man based on the couple's statement."
The men run a bootleg liquor business in a village near Datia, where the attack took place. Police were still searching for one suspect, he said.
The couple told police that the woman had been raped by seven or eight men, but that it was dark and they could not be sure of the exact number.
The woman, 39, and her husband were in the country on a cycling tour that was to take them from Mumbai to Delhi. Police said the couple were on their way back from Orchha, a town known for its 15th century temples and is visited by more than half a million tourists a year.
They were on their way to see the Taj Mahal, approximately 200 kilometres north of Datia, when they decided to camp for the night in a forest, about 700 metres from the main road.
"That is a lonely stretch of road. No one stops there," Mr Budholiya said. "There was negligence on their part."
The men allegedly beat the woman and her husband, tied him up to a tree and raped her in front of him. The men also stole a laptop, phones and 10,000 rupees (Dh680), police said. After the couple reported the incident to the police, she was taken to hospital, where doctors confirmed she had been raped.
Police recovered 5,500 rupees, the laptop, a phone along with a rifle and cartridge during yesterday's arrests.
"They were at wrong place in the wrong time," Mr Budholiya said. "On the way to the forest, they crossed a police station, they should have informed us that they were going into the forest area. They would have been discouraged from doing so."
The incident comes at a time when the Indian government is putting into place tougher laws to tackle violence against women following a national outcry over the death of a 23-year-old student in Delhi who was raped by six men in a bus in December. If the law is passed by April, the jail sentence for rape will be doubled to 20 years.
Madhya Pradesh has the highest incidence of rape in the country, with 3,381 cases of rape reported in 2011. Of these, more than 300 cases were of gang rape, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
"These type of men don't have any fear of punishment," said Jagmati Sangwan, the vice president of the All India Democratic Women's Association. "The values these days, especially in the mentality of gang rape, is to show whoever is powerful, he can do whatever he feels for his personal gain and choice."