Saturday, April 20, 2013

India: Hundreds of demonstrators besieged New Delhi’s police headquarters to protest the kidnapping, rape and torture of a 5-year-old girl

The injured girl has been moved to New Delhi’s finest public hospital on a gurney covered with stuffed toys, and was alert and in stable condition, according to doctors there. She was being given fluids and intravenous antibiotics to fight a blood infection, the doctors said, and further operations will have to wait until the infection has abated. Meanwhile, the police arrested a 22-year-old garment worker in Bihar, said Rajan Bhagat, a Delhi police spokesman. The police identified the suspect as Manoj, who, like many Indians, uses only one name. He had recently married and was tracked down with the help of cellphone records in the town where his in-laws live. The suspect had an apartment in New Delhi in the same building as the girl, whom he is accused of abducting, raping and torturing. He told the police that he fled his apartment shortly thereafter because he believed that the girl had died. The girl’s parents discovered her in the man’s apartment. “This is the first time I have seen such barbarism,” R. K. Bansal, medical superintendent of Swami Dayanand Hospital. “There were injuries on her lips, cheeks, arms and anus area. Her neck had bruise marks suggesting that attempts were made to strangle her.” He said a bottle almost eight inches long and pieces of candle had been inserted “into her private parts.” In December 2012, a woman was gang-raped and tortured and her companion beaten in a case that shocked the nation and led to weeks of spontaneous protests by Indians demanding better security for women. That case led to changes in the country’s rape laws, but horrific sexual assaults continue to be reported around India with regularity. Whether women are less safe in India than in other emerging countries is uncertain, but rape and police competence have become burning political issues. Demonstrators have sought to reawaken the outrage that convulsed India in December 2012, but the current protests were far smaller and seemed less spontaneous. Anger at the authorities began to build after the parents of the 5-year-old said that the police had failed to take their complaint seriously, failed to carry out an adequate search and then offered them 2,000 rupees — about $37 — if they would keep quiet about the case. Then, television news channels showed a large mustachioed police officer slapping a small female protester in the face. The government’s concerns about the case ratcheted up so quickly that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed regrets about the episode. And, the president of the Indian National Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi — whose house was also the site of protests — released a statement condemning the rape and saying that “action and not words are required to ensure that such incidents never happen again.” Two police officers, including the lead investigator on the case and the one seen slapping the protester, were suspended. The lead investigator is being investigated after being accused of trying to bribe the child’s family to remain silent, said Bhagat, the police spokesman. The quick arrest of the suspect may do little to calm the anger surrounding the case since fairly quick police work also led to the arrests of five suspects in the December 2012 rape case. Such rapid resolutions are not the norm in India, where highly politicized police forces and a backlogged and inefficient judiciary often mean that cases remain unresolved for years.

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