NEW DELHI – A second suspect was arrested Monday in the rape of a 5-year-old girl who New Delhi police say was left for dead in a locked room, a case that has brought a new wave of protests against how Indian authorities handle sex crimes.
Pradeep Kumar, a 19-year-old garment factory worker, was arrested Monday in the eastern state of Bihar, about 620 miles from New Delhi, and was being brought to the capital, police said.
Police said questioning of the first man arrested in the case, Manoj Kumar, led them to the second suspect. Manoj Kumar, 24, was arrested Saturday in Bihar and flown back to New Delhi. Kumar is a common last name in India and the two men are not related.
The men are accused of abducting, raping and attempting to murder the 5-year-old, who went missing April 15 and was found two days later by neighbors who heard her crying in a locked room in the same New Delhi building where she lives with her family. The girl was alone when she was found, having been left for dead by her attackers, police say.
The girl was in critical condition when she was transferred Thursday from a local hospital to the largest government-run hospital in the country. D.K. Sharma, medical superintendent of the hospital in New Delhi where the girl was being treated, said Monday that she was responding well and that her condition had stabilized.
"She is much better today and her wounds are healing well," Sharma told reporters.
The attack came four months after the fatal gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus sparked outrage across India about the treatment of women in the country.
For the third consecutive day, sporadic protests erupted in at least three places in New Delhi. Scores of supporters of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party dodged a huge police cordon and managed to reach the gates of Parliament where they shouted slogans against the Delhi police's tardy handling of the case. About 100 BJP supporters were detained. Police said they would be held at a nearby police station and then released in a few hours.
Separately, about 100 women protested at another area near the Parliament building. Most of the protests were directed against the Delhi police officers who failed to act after the girl's parents told them she was missing.
The protesters have demanded that the Delhi police chief be removed from office and that police accused of failing to act on the parents' complaint be dismissed.
"The police must be held accountable for their shocking levels of apathy. They urgently need to review police processes to ensure that all cases of rape and sexual violence -- not just those highlighted by the media -- are fully and promptly investigated," said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, who heads the India chapter of the human rights group Amnesty International.
"Those who fail to do their job must be held accountable," he said.
Delhi police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar admitted Monday that police had erred in handling the case.
"There have been shortfalls, so the station house officer and his deputy have been suspended," Kumar told reporters.
However, he said that instructions given to police officers since the December gang rape case to report all complaints of rape and molestation had led to a "phenomenal rise" in the number of such cases registered in the city.
"This shows that the tendency earlier to dissuade women from getting their complaints registered has changed dramatically," he said.
He said the number of rape and molestation cases that police were able to solve and make arrests had also gone up drastically.
Despite the police chief's claims of tighter enforcement, sexual crimes against women and children are reported every day in Indian newspapers, and women often complain about feeling insecure when they leave their homes.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for changes in attitudes toward women in India.
"The gruesome assault on the little girl a few days back reminds us once again of the need to work collectively to root out this sort of depravity from our society," Singh said at a meeting Sunday with civil servants.
The December gang rape on the New Delhi bus sparked outrage and spurred the government to pass tough laws for crimes against women, including the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim's death.
Activists say passing strong laws is not enough, and that the government must ensure that police and the justice system crack down on crimes against women.
"Mere changes in the law are not enough. Robust implementation is essential," Ananthapadmanabhan said.