New Delhi: Protests against the rape of a 5-year-old girl in the national capital went on unabated on Monday despite the arrest of a second accused in the case. Anger against the city's police mounted, led by Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and voices demanding resignation of the force's chief Neeraj Kumar kept rising.
On a day that saw Parliament being rocked by the issue, Delhi Police Commissioner defended himself and his force, but admitted that police's response in the case was "not as swift as desired". However, he maintained that the FIR of the case was lodged on the very first day, something the family of the survivor has refuted by saying police officers offered them a Rs 2,000 bribe to hush up the case - delaying the search for the girl by several hours.
A defiant Neeraj Kumar resisted growing demands for his resignation saying, "Is it humanly possible for a policeman to prevent a case like this in which a neighbour lures a girl who is playing to his room and commits a crime?". He said he had suspended the policeman caught on camera slapping a woman protester, along with two senior officers at the police station in question.
He also offered to take the entire staff of the police station to the hospital for an ID parade in relation to the bribe allegations. The minor girl has undergone surgery and was in stable condition on Monday, a doctor at the hospital where she is being treated told reporters.
The public anger echoes the response to the gangrape of a 23-year-old physiotherapist on a bus on December 16. She later died of her injuries. That attack brought thousands on to the streets in protest and put the issue of gender violence firmly on the national political agenda a year before elections.
However, protests this time have been smaller and spearheaded by the Aam Aadmi Party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. Demonstrators, who scaled barricades near Parliament on Monday, said they are angry as authorities failed to prevent the attack.
"They are helping the culprits to get away with the crime. A simple, speedy investigation would have found her quickly," said Pratap Samal, a protester outside Delhi Police headquarters. The main accused, Manoj Kumar, was arrested on Saturday for the attack on the five-year-old and has been remanded to judicial custody till May 4.
The second suspect, 19-year-old Pradeep, was arrested at 1 am on Monday at a relative's house in Bihar, police said. Television images showed police bundling the suspect into a vehicle, his head and face covered with a red scarf.
Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day after opposition politicians left their seats and challenged the Speaker, some demanding discussion of the rape case. Others were protesting against corruption and other issues.
Anticipating protests, Delhi Metro closed two more stations on police instructions to prevent gatherings near India Gate and the Prime Minister's residence but they reopened in the evening. Women's organisations took out a march towards Parliament demanding removal of Delhi Police Commissioner and other officers in the wake of the rape case.
The protesters had gathered at Jantar Mantar in the morning and started their march later. They tried to break barricades and march towards Parliament but were prevented by police.
The demonstrators were led by CPI(M)-backed All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Sangathan, National Federation for Indian Women (NFIW), All India Student's Association (AISA), All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and activists from the Student's Federation of India (SFI).
"We are not satisfied with the removal of officers. We want departmental enquiries into the matter. We also demand the arrest of the police officer who slapped and injured a protester," Rashpal Kaur, member of Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Sangathan, said.
AIPWA member Kavita Krishnan said, "We are going to meet the Home Minister and the Lt Governor and demand the removal of the errant police officers who did not register complaint filed by the parents of this girl in the first place." The demonstrators also demanded the resignation of the Home Minister following reports of another rape in Silchar.
"We are protesting against the human rights violations and the government cover-up. We don't think society has taken the problem of crime against women seriously in India," Rihanna, member of a US-based women rights group who joined the demonstrations, said.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI and Reuters)