New Delhi: Police on Wednesday arrested two homeless men over the alleged gang-rape of a Danish tourist who lost her way in New Delhi — the latest high-profile case to shine a spotlight on women’s safety in India.
The incident involving the 51-year-old comes just weeks after the country marked the first anniversary of the death of a student who was gang-raped on a moving bus in the capital in an attack that sent shockwaves across the nation.
The Danish tourist approached the suspects for directions early on Tuesday evening while trying to return to her hotel in the bustling Paharganj district, reportedly after visiting a city museum.
Up to six “youngsters” dragged her to a secluded part of a garden near the New Delhi railway station where they robbed and assaulted her at knife-point, police said.
She was travelling alone and had arrived in the capital on Monday after visiting the Taj Mahal in the northern city of Agra, staff at her hotel said.
“Two person(s) have been arrested in connection with rape case with Danish national,” read a statement from the police late on Wednesday.
Despite tougher laws and efforts to change attitudes to women in India’s deeply patriarchal society, the number of reported sex crimes in the world’s second most populous country continues to rise.
The alleged attack in an area popular with tourists in the heart of the city comes less than two weeks after a Polish woman was allegedly drugged and raped by a taxi driver while travelling with her two-year-old daughter to New Delhi.
Police searching for ‘vagabonds’
Police said both arrested men, one of whom was a 25-year-old migrant from nearby Uttar Pradesh, were homeless and sleeping rough at New Delhi railway station.
They were both found to be carrying possessions belonging to the victim, including an iPod music player and a spectacles case.
A senior investigating policeman told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday on condition of anonymity that they were searching for between four and six men who appeared to be “vagabonds”.
The victim, who was described as “traumatised” by police, gave a detailed statement in the presence of the Danish ambassador and is returning home.
A Danish foreign ministry spokesman said she “will be offered support and care when she comes home to Denmark” while declining to give any other details.
The crime scene was a secluded area shrouded by trees near a statue, inside the grounds of the Railway Officers Club on State Entry Road.
A police forensic team visited on Wednesday morning and police are in possession of the clothes the victim was wearing at the time of the attack, police told Agence France-Presse.
Kuldeep Singh, a receptionist at the victim’s hotel, said the woman had appeared calm when she returned at about 8:30 pm (1500 GMT) but then confided in a fellow traveller.
“She first came to me at the reception desk and told me that she needed 200 rupees to give to the auto driver as she had been robbed,” Singh said.
Female tourists afraid
Female tourists in Paharganj said they were aware of past cases and the new incident had rung alarm bells.
“I felt very unsafe with walking the streets and seeing what you see and everybody staring at you, but you can’t not travel to India because of it,” said Jessica Orpwood, a 21-year-old student backpacker from New Zealand.
Protests over sexual violence in the past year have prompted India’s parliament to toughen laws for rapists and other offenders, while other judicial and police reforms have encouraged women to report attacks.
But daily accounts of brutal assaults continue to be reported in the country’s newspapers.
A schoolgirl was raped by eight men in the eastern city of Ranchi this week while they held her male friend, the Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday.
The paper also reported the alleged rape of a German teenager on a train bound for the southern city of Chennai last week. The report said police had a man in custody.
A judge last month sentenced three Nepalese men to 20 years in jail for the gang-rape of a US tourist in June and six men were sentenced to life in prison last July for the gang-rape and robbery of a Swiss female cyclist. AFP