VASCO DA GAMA, GOA // Thousands of protesters gathered in the holiday state of Goa yesterday after a seven-year-old girl was raped in a school toilet, sparking fresh outrage in India following a deadly gang rape on a bus.
Crowds began arriving outside the Deepvihar High School in the city of Vasco da Gama on Monday night after news of the attack emerged, prompting police to arrest the headmistress on charges of neglect as well as to appeal for calm.
A massive manhunt has been launched to trace the attacker, thought to be in his early 20s, who managed to get into the premises despite security guards posted at the school gate.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the child was raped after being dragged inside a toilet situated next to the headmistress's office during a break in classes.
Police were alerted after the girl complained of pain and was given a medical examination.
The girl was taken to hospital and has since been discharged, a charity worker accompanying her said. "She is fine now and recuperating at home," she said.
The victim's identity has been protected in line with Indian law.
Thousands of people surrounded the school on Monday night, shouting for the arrest of the headmistress and the rapist.
Demonstrations spread to other parts of the city yesterday, with shops and businesses closing in protest.
Goa's chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, visited the spot to try to calm the tense gathering.
"We will not spare the accused or anyone involved in this crime," he told the crowd, after which the headmistress was detained. She was later arrested for alleged negligence of duty, the police official said.
The case has been transferred from local police to the state crime branch, which has taken up the help of a teacher to draw a sketch of the accused, earlier seen loitering in the school compound.
The attack comes after the gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi last month sparked nationwide protests and fuelled anger across India over the alarming incidence of sexual assault.
Protesters across the country have called for tougher laws to punish rapists, including the introduction of capital punishment in the most extreme cases.
Also in Goa on Monday, a policeman was arrested after being accused of sexually abusing sex workers, who said he and two other policemen had been exploiting them in return for protection of their trade.
Constable Waman Naik and two other policemen were suspended from duty on December 6 following a complaint by two women operating in the western state's tourist belt.
"We will be producing him for remand tomorrow," Inspector Sunita Sawant said.
In a complaint filed to the court the sex workers said the men had "forceful sexual intercourse with them, attempted to extort protection money and demanded sexual favours from them in 2010-11".
An investigation of the other accused policemen is ongoing, Insp Sawant said.