Hundreds of people in parts of central India are demanding the death penalty for two men arrested for allegedly brutally raping a 7-year-old girl and trying to slit her throat with a knife.
Protesters filled the streets on Saturday, blocking transportation and shutting down businesses as they demand justice for the victim who was allegedly attacked on Tuesday in Mandsaur, a town in Madhya Pradesh state. The town is 685 kilometers (425 miles) southwest of New Delhi.
Police say the two men allegedly abducted the child while she was waiting to be picked up from school by her parents. Officials say the girl, who was found bleeding and unconscious on Wednesday with stab wounds from the alleged attack, is in stable condition in a hospital.
Officials said they were able to make the arrests after watching CCTV footage from near the school, which showed one of the accusers walking away with the child after offering her sweets, BBC News reported.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of the state, is among those calling for the death penalty for the two suspects.
“These beasts are a burden on the earth,” he told NDTV. “They do not deserve to live.”
He continued: “In cases of rape, we have made a provision for trial in the fast track courts. We will request the high court and the Supreme Court to make a similar provision so that culprits in such crimes get capital punishment at the earliest.”
Crimes against women in India have been rising despite tougher laws. India has been shaken by a series of sexual assaults since 2012, when a student was gang-raped and murdered on a moving New Delhi bus.
The government has passed a series of laws increasing punishment for rape of an adult to 20 years in prison, but it's rare for more than a few weeks to pass without another report of a brutal sexual assault.
Responding to widespread outrage over the recent rape and killing of young girls and other attacks on children, India's government recently approved the death penalty for people convicted of raping children under 12.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.