NEW DELHI — Passers-by refused to stop to help a naked, bleeding gang-rape victim after she was dumped from a bus onto a New Delhi street, and police delayed taking her to a hospital for 30 minutes, the woman’s male companion said in an interview. It was his first public account of the gruesome attack that killed the 23-year-old student and prompted demands for reform of a law enforcement culture seen as lax in crimes against women.
The gang-rape victim’s brother blamed a delay in medical treatment of nearly two hours for her death last week in a Singapore hospital.
The woman’s male companion, who has not been named, sat in a wheelchair with a broken leg in his interview aired Friday on Indian TV station Zee News. He recounted the 2 ½ hour rape and beating by a group of men on a bus, which the pair had boarded as they were returning from seeing a movie together.
“I gave a tough fight to three of them. I punched them hard. But then two others hit me with an iron rod,” he said. The woman tried to call the police using her mobile phone, but the men took it away from her, he said. They then took her to the rear seats of the bus and one-by-one began raping her, beating and violating her with an iron rod.
Afterward, he overheard some of the attackers saying the woman was dead before dumping both onto the street, he said.
On Saturday, police officer Vivek Gogia denied the companion’s assertion that police officers debated jurisdiction for 30 minutes before taking the rape victim and her friend to a hospital.
In a statement, Gogia said police vans reached the spot where the rape victim and her friend were dumped within three minutes of receiving the alert. “Police vans left the spot for hospital with the victims within 12 minutes,” he said.
That time was spent in borrowing bed sheets from a neighboring hotel to cover the naked rape victim and her friend, he said.
Also Saturday, a court asked police to produce five men accused of raping the student for pre-trial proceedings on Monday. Police have charged them with murder, rape and other crimes that could bring them the death penalty.
A sixth suspect, listed as a 17-year-old, was expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.
Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said the summary received from Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore said the rape victim’s death was caused by septicemia and multiple-organ failure, the Press Trust of India news agency said.
He also told Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal that the DNA test confirmed that the blood of the victim tallied with the blood stains found on the clothes of all the accused.
Meanwhile, the rape victim’s brother said the delay in providing medical treatment led to complications which perhaps caused her death.
“She told me that after the incident she had asked passers-by for help but to no avail, and it was only after the highway patrol alerted the police that she was rushed to hospital, but it had taken almost two hours,” the Press Trust of India quoted the brother as saying in his ancestral village, Medawara Kala, in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“By then a lot of blood was lost,” he said.
The 23-year-old woman died last weekend from massive internal injuries suffered during the attack.
On the night of the attack, the woman and her companion had just finished watching the movie “Life of Pi” at an upscale mall and were looking for a ride home. An autorickshaw driver declined to take them, so they boarded the private bus with the six assailants inside, the companion told Zee News.
After the pair were on the bus for a while, the men started harassing and attacking them.
“The attack was so brutal I can’t even tell you … even animals don’t behave like that,” the man said.
The men dumped their bleeding and naked bodies under an overpass. The woman’s companion waved to passersby on bikes, in autorickshaws and in cars for help, but no one stopped. “They slowed down, looked at our naked bodies and left,” he said.
“My friend was grievously injured and bleeding profusely,” he said. “Cars, autos and bikes slowed down and sped away. I kept waving for help. The ones who stopped stared at us, discussing what could have happened. Nobody did anything.”
After about 20 minutes, three police vans arrived, but the officers argued over who had jurisdiction over the crime as the man pleaded for clothes and an ambulance, he said.
Finally, he said, they were taken to a hospital.
The man said he was given no medical care. He then spent four days at the police station helping police investigate the crime. He said he visited his friend in the hospital, told her the attackers were arrested and promised to fight for her.
Authorities have not named the man because of the sensitivity of the case. Zee News also declined to give his name, although it did show his face during the interview.
Indian law prohibits the disclosure of the identity of victims in rape cases, and police have opened an investigation into the TV station for broadcasting the interview, New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said Saturday. Violators of the law can face up to two years in prison and a fine.
The woman’s companion said he gave the TV interview because he hopes it will encourage rape victims to come forward and speak about their ordeals without shame.
He said his friend was determined to see that the attackers were punished. “She gave all details of the crime to the magistrate — things we can’t even talk about,” he said. “She told me that the culprits should be burnt alive.”
He added, “People should move ahead in the struggle to prevent a similar crime happening again as a tribute to her.”
Most people in India are reluctant to get involved in police business because once they become witnesses, they can be dragged into legal cases that can go on for years. Also, Indian police are often seen less as protectors and more as harassers.
On Friday, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde called for changes in the law and the way police investigate cases so justice can be swiftly delivered. Many rape cases are bogged down in India’s overburdened and sluggish court system for years.
In the wake of the rape, several petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court to take an active role in the issue of women’s safety.
On Friday, the court dismissed a petition asking it to suspend Indian lawmakers accused of crimes against women, saying it doesn’t have jurisdiction, according to the Press Trust of India. The Association for Democratic Reforms, an organization that tracks officials’ criminal records, said six state lawmakers are facing rape prosecutions and two national parliamentarians are facing charges of crimes against women that fall short of rape.
However, the court did agree to look into the widespread creation of more fast-track courts for accused rapists across the country.