NEW DELHI – Police said Sunday they have arrested six suspects in another gang rape of a bus passenger in India, four weeks after a brutal attack on a student on a moving bus in the capital outraged Indians and led to calls for tougher rape laws.
Police officer Raj Jeet Singh said a 29-year-old woman was the only passenger on a bus as she was traveling to her village in northern Punjab state on Friday night. The driver refused to stop at her village despite her repeated pleas and drove her to a desolate location, he said.
There, the driver and the conductor took her to a building where they were joined by five friends and took turns raping her throughout the night, Singh said.
The driver dropped the woman off at her village early Saturday, he said.
Singh said police arrested six suspects on Saturday and were searching for another.
Gurmej Singh, deputy superintendent of police, said all six admitted involvement in the rape. He said the victim was recovering at home.
The deadly rape of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus in December led to the woman's death and set off an impassioned debate about what India needs to do to prevent such tragedies. Protesters and politicians have called for tougher rape laws, police reforms and a transformation in the way the country treats women.
"It's a very deep malaise. This aspect of gender justice hasn't been dealt with in our nation-building task," Seema Mustafa, a writer on social issues who heads the Center for Policy Analysis think tank, said Sunday.
"Police haven't dealt with the issue severely in the past. The message that goes out is that the punishment doesn't match the crime. Criminals think they can get away it," she said.
In her first published comments, the mother of the deceased student in the New Delhi attack said Sunday that all six suspects in that case, including one believed to be a juvenile, deserve to die.
She was quoted by The Times of India newspaper as saying that her daughter, who died from massive internal injuries two weeks after the attack, told her that the youngest suspect had participated in the most brutal aspects of the rape.
Five men have been charged with the physiotherapy student's rape and murder and face a possible death penalty if convicted. The sixth suspect, who says he is 17 years old, is likely to be tried in a juvenile court if medical tests confirm he is a minor. His maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.
"Now the only thing that will satisfy us is to see them punished. For what they did to her, they deserve to die," the newspaper quoted the mother as saying.
Some activists have demanded a change in Indian laws so that juveniles committing heinous crimes can face the death penalty.
The names of the victim of the Dec. 16 attack and her family have not been released.