NEW DELHI – A 5-year-old girl was in serious condition Saturday after being raped and tortured by a man who held her in a locked room in India’s capital for two days, officials said.
The incident – which came four months after the fatal gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus caused outrage across India about the treatment of women in the country – sparked protests against the authorities’ handling of the case.
The girl went missing Monday and was found Wednesday by neighbors who heard her crying in a room in the same New Delhi building where she lives with her parents, said Delhi police Official Deepak Mishra. The girl was found alone locked in a room and left for dead, he said.
A 24-year-old man who lived in the room where the girl was found was arrested Saturday in Muzaffarpur town in Bihar state, about 620 miles east of New Delhi, Mishra said. The man was flown to New Delhi, where a magistrate ordered he be held in police custody.
The girl suffered severe internal injuries, as well as cuts and bite marks on her face and torso, said D.K. Sharma, the medical superintendent of the government-run hospital in New Delhi where she was being treated. Sharma described the girl’s condition as “serious” and said doctors were trying to stabilize her.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people in New Delhi protested Saturday near the home minister’s residence and outside police headquarters demanding government action against the police for allegedly failing to immediately investigate after the girl was reported missing.
Rights activists and officials said the girl’s parents went to police Monday to report their daughter was missing, but police refused to register a case. The parents are poor construction workers who had migrated to the city some years ago in search of work.
“The police did nothing. They did not register a complaint, the first step before they can begin investigations,” said Ranjana Kumari, a women’s rights activist and social scientist. “This heinous crime could have been prevented if police had begun investigations promptly.”
Police had no immediate comment on the accusations, but Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Saturday an inquiry had been ordered into the handling of the case.
The growing outrage against alleged police high-handedness in India led even the country’s normally reticent leader to react.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the police behavior “completely unacceptable.” He conveyed to Delhi authorities “the need for the strictest possible action to be taken against the erring officials,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement late Friday.
The fatal beating and gang rape of a young woman aboard a moving New Delhi bus in December sparked outrage and spurred the government to pass tough laws for crimes against women, including the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim’s death.