Police in the northern Indian state of Punjab said Sunday that they have arrested seven men in the gang rape of a 29-year-old woman who was traveling alone on a bus, less than four weeks after the brutal rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus created a national outcry about the safety of women in public places.
In the latest incident, police said a woman was taking a bus home to her village at about 5 p.m. Friday. She was the lone passenger for about 30 minutes. The bus driver did not heed her request to stop at her village and instead stopped at a desolate spot further away, according to police .
“When the woman got down from the bus, she was carried away by the bus driver and conductor on a motorcycle to another spot and were joined by five other men,” said Raj Jeet Singh, the senior superintendent of police in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. She was dropped off the next morning near her village. “She came with her family to report rape on Saturday.”
The attack bore similarities to the high-profile case of the 23-year-old woman who was gang-raped and beaten inside a moving bus last month in New Delhi. She was then thrown out onto the street, along with a male friend who had tried to protect her. She died of her injuries about two weeks later at a Singapore hospital.
Her case sparked unprecedented protests across India and galvanized the media and the police to focus on the rising incidents of rape and sexual harassment in the country. Sexual assaults have since made headline news here almost daily, a marked change from when such cases were mentioned only briefly in the inside pages of newspapers and were rarely reported by television news channels.
“The increased media reporting and the protests have created an awakening among women, and they are now coming forward like never before to report rape and want to fight for justice,” said Hardeep Dhillon, a senior police spokesman in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. “This has also made our police force more sensitive to these cases. Now they file the complaint immediately and believe the victim’s statement without questioning.
“Earlier, the police would merely make a note of the details of a rape case when a woman came to the police station. They would hold a preliminary inquiry, ascertain the facts and only then register a formal complaint.”
Police filed charges in the New Delhi rape case within a fortnight, and the case is expected to be shifted to a fast-track court Monday.