Hundreds of people have protested for the second day outside government buildings and residences of top politicians in India’s capital, New Delhi, angry at the conduct of police dealing with the kidnapping and rape of a five-year-old girl.
About 100 protesters, many of whom were members of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, faced off with the police on Sunday as they gathered outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence and near the house of Sonia Gandhi, leader of the ruling Congress Party.
Police briefly detained 50 of the protesters, when they tried to break down barricades on the road leading to Gandhi’s house.
The protesters were furious over allegations that police had ignored complaints by the girl’s parents that she was missing, and demanded better policing standards.
“Police and other officials that fail to do their jobs and instead engage in abusive behaviour should know that they will be punished,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said.
The protesters also demanded that the Delhi police chief be removed from office.
“What is the commissioner of Delhi doing? We demand removal of the police commissioner,” one protester told Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman.
As people hit the streets against the latest case of rape, doctors reported on Sunday that the young victim’s condition had improved.
DK Sharma, medical superintendent of the state-run hospital in New Delhi, said the girl was responding well to treatment and that she had stabilised.
The girl went missing on April 15 and was found two days later by neighbours who heard her crying in a locked room in the same building where she lived with her family.
The gruesome assault on the little girl a few days back reminds us once again of the need to work collectively to root out this sort of depravity from our society.
She was alone when she was found, having been left for dead by the man following the brutal attack, police said.
On Saturday, a 24-year-old man was arrested in the eastern state of Bihar, about 1,000km from New Delhi, in connection with the incident.
After being flown to Delhi, he was in custody and was being interrogated, police said.
The incident came four months after the fatal gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus sparked outrage across India about the treatment of women in the country.
Sexual crimes against women and children are reported every day in Indian newspapers, and women often complain about their sense of insecurity when they leave their homes.
Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, has called for changes in attitudes toward women in India, where there has been a fierce debate since December’s gang rape about the routine mistreatment of females.
“The gruesome assault on the little girl a few days back reminds us once again of the need to work collectively to root out this sort of depravity from our society,” Singh said on Sunday at a meeting with civil servants.
A day earlier, Singh had urged Indian society “to look within and work to root out the evil of rape and other such crimes from our midst”.
Since the death of the female rape victim last December, people have demanded harsher punishments for convicted rapists and a public sex offenders’ register to name and shame them.
Indian law has since been amended to include the death penalty in cases of rape.
But activists said that merely passing strong laws is not enough, and that the government has to convey its intention to crack down on crimes against women to its officials and the police.
“Enacting strong laws are simply a first step, but it needs the government to focus urgently on implementation if it is serious about protecting children and other victims of sexual abuse,” Human Rights Watch’s Ganguly said.