Friend of India Rape Victim Criticizes Police Response
By KRISHNA POKHAREL And PREETIKA RANA
NEW DELHI—A man who was present at a brutal gang rape that led to the death of the 23-year-old victim spoke publicly for the first time with details of the attack and harsh words for police, who he said wasted time fighting over jurisdiction before taking the woman to a hospital.
The incident has spurred protests across India for better policing and tougher laws to protect women from sexual assault. India’s Home Ministry said Friday it will recruit 2,500 female police personnel in New Delhi and dispatch at least a dozen to every police station in the city to enhance security for women.
On Friday, the male companion of the victim in the Dec. 16 attack, interviewed on camera by TV channel Zee News, also blamed fellow citizens for failing to help them.
The pair, whose names haven’t been publicly released, had been to a film before boarding the bus where the rape occurred.
The bus driver and five others have been accused of assaulting the pair and raping the woman for over an hour before dumping them, naked, on a highway. The six also face murder charges, following the death of the woman on Dec. 29. The accused don’t have legal representation and have made no public statements.
In the interview, the man, a 28-year-old working in information technology, described how the two called out for help but were ignored. “Several auto rickshaws, cars and bikes slowed down but no one stopped for about 25 minutes,” he said. “Nobody from the public helped us. People were probably afraid that if they help us they would become witness to the crime and would be asked to come to police stations and courts.”
About 45 minutes after being dumped on the road, three police vans arrived but the officers then argued over which station should deal with the couple, he said. It took at least two hours from the time they were thrown off the bus to the time they reached a hospital, he said.
“My friend was bleeding profusely,” the man said. “But instead of taking us to a nearby hospital, they took us to a faraway hospital.”
The description is at odds with the police’s recounting of the incident and is likely to further fuel public anger over what many see as poor policing and ineffectual rape laws.
The Delhi police has said its officers responded quickly, getting the couple to a hospital and quickly arresting the six alleged assailants. A police spokesman declined to comment on the male victim’s statement on Friday that police were slow to act.
The spokesman, Rajan Bhagat, said authorities have registered a criminal case against Zee News for reporting the identity of the man, as doing so could potentially lead people to work out the identity of the rape victim.
In the interview, the channel named the male companion but not the female victim. The man doesn’t name the woman.
Indian law doesn’t allow the naming of rape victims without permission from the victim or family members. An official at Zee News declined to comment on the criminal case against the TV channel.
Authorities filed charges against five of the men Thursday in a Delhi court. The sixth suspect will face trial in juvenile court. All are in custody.
Lawyers at the court hearing the case have declined to represent the five men. A judge is expected soon to appoint legal representation for them. The 1,000-page document containing the charges against the five men hasn’t been made public.
The victim’s male companion told Zee News the two got suboptimal care at the hospital, a version of events that also runs counter to the police narrative.
“Even at the hospital we were made to wait and I had to literally beg for clothes. I borrowed a stranger’s mobile and called my relatives,” he told the channel.
Police took the couple to government-run Safdarjung Hospital. An official there declined to comment. The woman was later transferred to a hospital in Singapore, where she died from severe organ failure due to injuries incurred during the gang rape.
The man said he had been unsure about getting into the bus, a chartered vehicle with curtains and tinted windows.
But they boarded anyway as they were running late, he said. Under Delhi law, such a bus wasn’t supposed to be picking up fee-paying passengers, police said.
Once inside, he said, the couple each paid a 30-cent fare.
The other men on the bus initially acted as if they were normal passengers, he said. But then they started taunting the woman with lewd comments.The man said a brawl ensued, with the accused beating the couple with an iron rod that police and doctors said was used in the sexual assault.
“From where we boarded bus, they moved around for nearly 2½ hours. We were shouting, trying to make people hear us. But they switched off the lights. We tried to resist them.
Even my friend fought with them, she tried to save me,” he said.
Activists say male police often try to dissuade rape victims from registering cases, and sometimes steer them to marry the men who raped them.
According to National Crime Records Bureau statistics, there were some 67,000 police personnel in New Delhi at the end of 2011, of which 5,180, or less than 8%, were women.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, announcing the plan to recruit more female police officers, said India’s justice system had failed to deal with rape, with thousands of cases pending in a overburdened court system.
—Rajesh Roy contributed to this article.