India police arrest five men over gang-rape of photographer
Mumbai police Sunday arrested the fifth and final member of a gang suspected of raping a photographer, a crime that reignited anger about women’s safety in India following a similar attack last year.
The latest arrest came as the victim’s family urged the nation, including the media, to continue to fight for justice “for all those victims and their families” who have gone through “the same hell as we have”.
The family said it was “optimistic” their daughter’s case would be fast -tracked and the “severest of punishments” handed down to those responsible, because of ongoing campaigns and a tougher sex crime law introduced earlier this year.
“This will ensure that even the most sick-minded think twice before they act in such an inhuman and insensitive way,” it said in a statement.
The group allegedly trapped and repeatedly raped the woman, said to be in her early 20s, on Thursday in an abandoned mill in an upmarket district of central Mumbai, where she was on assignment for a magazine.
The attack rekindled memories of the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi in December. That crime sparked nationwide protests and brought to the surface seething anger about violence against women in India.
The outrage led to a tougher anti-rape law that included increased punishment for sex offenders, who face the death penalty if a victim dies, and a broader definition of sexual assault.
On Sunday a Mumbai police team arrested the fifth suspect in New Delhi over the brutal attack in which the woman’s male colleague was allegedly tied up with a belt and the woman attacked nearby.
“Our crime branch team arrested the fifth suspect from New Delhi earlier Sunday and he is being brought back to Mumbai,” a police official, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
The woman, reportedly an intern, is undergoing treatment at Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital, where staff said she was steadily improving.
“She is eating normally and her medical parameters are in control,” the acting head of the hospital said in a statement.
The fifth suspect was tracked down after the arrest of four others since Friday, all in Mumbai. One arrested early on Sunday was identified by the Press Trust of India as Kasim Bangali.
Two of the suspects, their faces covered by black cloth, were remanded in police custody until August 30 after appearing in a Mumbai court on Sunday. On Saturday, two other suspects were also remanded in police custody.
The attack, which dismayed a city seen as far safer for women than the capital, sparked protests in Mumbai and uproar in the national parliament.
The woman was attacked while she was taking photos of the abandoned Shakti Mills factory compound next to a fashionable area of apartment and office blocks, shops and restaurants, police said.
They said the victim and her male colleague were approached by some men and told they should not be there, before being attacked.
The woman’s family pleaded with the media for privacy as they try to recover from this “nightmarish phase”.
“We hope and pray you will empathise and adhere to our humble request while continuing your support for justice, not just for my daughter but for all those victims and families who have gone through the same hell as we have,” they said.
The woman was earlier quoted by The Times of India as saying “rape is not the end of life” and she wanted to return to work.
The incident comes eight months after the student was gang-raped in a moving bus in New Delhi, while her male companion was beaten up. She died two weeks later from severe injuries.
A trial is in its final stages in that case, which sparked massive and sometimes violent protests.
It prompted soul- searching about whether India can protect its women, in a country where fear of social stigma, a hostile police reaction and an inadequate judicial process mean many sexual assaults go unreported.
Since the December incident, dozens of rapes of women — including foreign tourists — have been highlighted in the media.