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Indian police arrest second man over girl's rape

Indian students demonstrate in Ahmedabad, on April 20, 2013, against the brutal rape of an infant girl in New Delhi
Indian students demonstrate in Ahmedabad, on April 20, 2013, against the brutal rape of a five-year-old girl in New Delhi. Police have arrested a second man over the kidnap and rape of a five-year-old girl in New Delhi, but officers faced protests and a h

Indian police arrested a second man Monday over the kidnap and rape of a five-year-old girl in New Delhi, but officers faced protests and a hail of criticism over their insensitive handling of the case.

After a weekend of demonstrations in the capital, crowds again vented their anger over the levels of sexual violence which first came to the boil in December after the gang-rape of a student on a bus.

Doctors meanwhile said the five-year-old victim of the latest shocking case was in a stable condition and was able to talk to her parents.

Two people are now in custody in connection with the attack which began on April 15 when the youngster was allegedly abducted from her home and then locked in a room where she was repeatedly raped and violated.

After a 22-year-old garment worker who was a tenant in the girl's house was arrested on Friday a second suspect was detained overnight at his uncle's house in the eastern state of Bihar.

"We will be soon bringing him to Delhi for a joint interrogation and medical tests," said an investigating officer who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

The second man was named as Pradeep Kumar, who is a friend of the main accused, Manoj Kumar.

News of the arrest came as protesters gathered outside the victim's hospital and at Delhi police headquarters to express fury at the conduct of investigators. There were also calls for the city's top policeman to resign.

Delhi police have opened an inquiry into allegations that the victim's family was offered 2,000 rupees (around $35) to keep quiet about the case and told they should be grateful that she was alive.

The chief investigating officer and a senior colleague who is alleged to have slapped a protestor on Friday have both been suspended.

The noisy and often dysfunctional national parliament, which re-convened Monday after a mid-session break, was repeatedly adjourned amid protests from opposition lawmakers demanding better security for women.

The capital's police force came in for heavy criticism over the student's gang-rape on December 16 which took place on a bus which had been able to pass through a series of checkpoints late at night.

While there have been pledges to increase the number of women police officers and rethink the handling of rape accusations, the latest episode has put the force once more into the firing line.

"We have been protesting since December 16 but the Delhi police have not learned their lesson," said Sunil Singh, a student who took part in Monday's protest outside the hospital.

"It's shameful that the parents of this child were asked to keep quiet. I am worried what kind of future are we looking at," he told AFP.

Sandeep Dikshit, a Delhi lawmaker who is the son of the capital's chief minister Sheila Dikshit, renewed his demand for the removal of Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar which he had first made back in December.

"When such an incident takes place and you want to give a message, then accountability is the most important part of that message," he told reporters.

The Times of India said a new law dealing with sexual violence should be used to act against police who had failed in their duty of protection "so that the message goes down the line that negligence will not be tolerated".

The Hindu newspaper highlighted a string of other cases of police insensitivity towards victims.

"No law will achieve its purpose unless its enforcers shed their insensitivity and callousness towards the victims of sexual crime," it said.

India's umbrella chamber of commerce group, ASSOCHAM, said the police's failure to protect women was undermining productivity in areas where they account for much of the workforce such as the health service and IT industry.

The attack on the five-year-old is one of a string of recent shocking child abuse cases in the last week, including the rape of a four-year-old girl at a construction site in the central state of Chhattisgarh,

In a speech on Sunday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said there needed to be a collective effort to "root out this sort of depravity from our society".

A senior UN envoy was to begin a 10-day visit to India on Monday to discuss violence against women.