x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Second man arrested over rape of girl, 5, in India

A 19-year-old garment factory worker joins 24-year-old arrested over the abduction, rape and attempted murder of five-year-old child.

Indian police officials escort a 19-year-old man from a court appearance in Lakhisarai District.
Indian police officials escort a 19-year-old man from a court appearance in Lakhisarai District.

NEW DELHI // A second suspect was arrested yesterday over the rape of a five-year-old girl in New Delhi that has renewed the country's anger at widespread sexual violence.

The attack on the child came four months after the fatal gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus raised questions about the prevalence of sexual abuse in the country.

The Congress-led government was grilled by opposition parties in parliament yesterday for its failure to deter rapes, while activists criticised the police for mishandling the case of the five-year-old, who was in a critical condition when she was taken to hospital.

The second arrest was a 19-year-old garment factory worker in the eastern state of Bihar, about 1,000 kilometres from New Delhi, who was being taken to the capital, police said.

Questioning of the first man arrested in the case, Manoj Kumar, 24, led them to the second suspect. The two men are not related.

They are accused of abducting, raping and attempting to murder the child, who went missing on April 15 and was found two days later by neighbours who heard her crying in a locked room in the same New Delhi building where she lives with her family.

The girl was alone when she was found, having been left for dead by her attackers, police said.

She was "showing signs of recovery" yesterday, said DK Sharma, medical superintendent of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. "It will take some time to heal completely."

She will need two weeks to recover enough for further surgery, Dr Sharma added.

The capital awoke yesterday to news of three new rape cases involving children - a 15-year-old in north-west Delhi, an 11-year-old alleged to have been abused by a rickshaw driver in the same area, and a 14-year-old in south-east Delhi.

Parliament reconvened for the second half of its budget session yesterday but proceedings were twice delayed as opposition parties voiced their discontent at the government's failures.

"You had promised such incidents would be deterred … in this case the police even refused to take action initially," Maya Singh, a legislator from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told the home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde.

Mr Shinde said rapes happened not only in Delhi but across India.

Protests over the weekend continued yesterday, with a number of women's groups mobilising in central Delhi. A flyer from these groups stated the city's police "have failed to discharge their duties and have proved themselves to be corrupt, ineffective, prejudiced and often violent".

Roads in central Delhi were barricaded and three metro stations were closed to prevent protesters from assembling.

Demonstrations in Delhi continued to call for the resignation of Neeraj Kumar, the Delhi police commissioner.

Mr Kumar yesterday insisted that he was "absolutely" happy with the force's work but that stringent action would be taken against the policemen who first refused to file a complaint about the rape, and his resignation would solve nothing.

"If you misreport, do your editors resign?" Mr Kumar asked a journalist who asked if he would be stepping down.

But Mr Kumar said that the station house officer and his deputy have been suspended.

Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association, criticised the police commissioner.

"The police have not responded to the seriousness of the case," she said. "There was a brutal attack on a small child and it took almost three days to locate the child. Even then a neighbour found her, not the police.

"Even after the first information report was filed, the police looked in the other direction. They refused to do anything about it."

The parents of the five-year-old have alleged that policemen tried to bribe them with 2,000 rupees (Dh136) to go home and forget about filing a case.

A protester last week was slapped by a policeman, who has since been suspended.

On Sunday, G Ananthapadmanabhan, chief executive of Amnesty International India, said this rape "shows the appalling extent of indifference in the police to violence against women and girls, and the inadequacy of internal processes to ensure professional conduct".

"The police must be held accountable for their shocking levels of apathy," he added. "Those who fail to do their job must be held accountable.

"Mere changes in the law are not enough. Robust implementation is essential."

Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, a gender research non-profit in New Delhi, said police apathy contributed to potential rapists' idea "that they can do this with impunity".

"Things like justice take too long. Action to bring them to justice or even to arrest them takes too long."

New anti-rape legislation had made punishments for sexual crimes tougher, Ms Kumari said, "but even that we have to wait to see it play out".

ssubramanian@thenational.ae

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae