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A policeman directs a motorist outside the District Court Complex in Saket. RIGHT: Protesters light candles in memory of the rape victim at a rally in New Delhi yesterday.
NEW DELHI: Claims of police incompetence and public apathy stirred fresh outrage yesterday in the case of a New Delhi gang-rape victim after her boyfriend recounted witnessing the horrific crime for the first time.
The new wave of anger came as a district court in south Delhi admitted charges against five suspects, who have been ordered to appear there together for the first time tomorrow.
In addition to rape, kidnap and robbery, they face a murder charge and possibly the death penalty after the 23-year-old victim died last weekend from her injuries, including internal wounds caused by an iron bar.
Her boyfriend was also injured as he tried to prevent the assault which took place on a moving bus on December 16, stirring violent protests and a bout of soul-searching on the treatment of women and rising sex crime in India.
“The cruelty I saw should not be seen ever,” the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said as he described the savagery of the assault which started after the couple were lured onto the bus after watching a film together.
Speaking to AFP and an Indian news channel, he said passers-by ignored the naked and bloodied couple for 30 minutes after they were thrown out of the bus and police then wasted more time arguing over who had jurisdiction.
“A passer-by found us (after the attack), but he did not even give my friend his jacket,” he said in the interview, which also raised questions about the medical treatment given to the woman at a government hospital.
Speaking to the Hindi-language Zee News channel, he said it took 90 minutes for the injured pair to reach hospital because passers-by ignored their pleas for help, and police were late to arrive and then needlessly delayed.
“They could have taken us to hospital, given us clothes in that crucial one-and-a-half hours. For a dying person every minute is important,” he told the channel.
Facing angry criticism on the streets, where protests have raged over the last three weeks against the lack of safety in the Indian capital, the police issued a hasty rebuttal.
A senior officer from the area where they were found, Vivek Gogia, told a press conference that computer logs showed the police were on the scene six minutes after receiving a distress call and the couple were in hospital 28 minutes later.
“This is not the time to engage in arguments,” he added.
Separately, the police filed a case against Zee News because the interview, which showed the boyfriend’s face unobscured, had illegally disclosed the identity of a rape victim.
The Committee to Protect Journalists criticised the move in a statement.
While faith in the police force is already low — they are widely pilloried as corrupt, insensitive to complaints from women and understaffed — the revelation that bystanders failed to help the injured couple angered some Delhi residents.
“As people we should try and improve ourselves because the boy talked about how the people who were passing by did not try to help them,” said Abhinav Agarwal, a 31-year-old manager at a private company.
“More than the police, it is the public who should try to reflect and bring a change in their attitude,” he said.
Others pointed out that witnesses to crimes were generally reluctant to help or come forward in India out of fear of being implicated by police or being consumed in a lengthy trial.
At the district court in south Delhi yesterday, magistrate Namrita Aggarwal said that she had “taken cognisance of the case”.
The suspects aged from 19 to 35 have been called to appear before her tomorrow and prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said police had strong evidence, including a statement from the boyfriend and forensic evidence.
“The blood of the victim tallied with the stains found on the clothes of the accused,” he added.
Aggarwal had been expected to transfer the case to a separate fast-track court set up specifically to deal with it.
The raped woman was an ambitious physiotherapy student interning in New Delhi who had been to see the film Life of Pi at an upmarket shopping mall with her boyfriend.
“I was not very confident about getting into the bus but my friend was running late, so we got into it. This was the biggest mistake I made,” he said.