POLICE in India 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.
A 29-year-old woman was the only passenger on a bus as she was travelling 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, police 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.
The driver dropped the woman off at her village early Saturday, police said.
Police officer Raj Jeet Singh said six suspects were arrested on Saturday and they were searching for another.
Gurmej Singh, deputy superintendent of police, told reporters all six admitted involvement in the rape. He said the victim was recovering at home.
Also on Saturday, police arrested a 32-year-old man for allegedly raping and killing a nine-year-old girl two weeks ago in Ahmednagar district in western India. Her decomposed body was found on Friday.
Police officer Sunita Thakare said the suspect committed the crime seven months after his release from prison after serving nine years for raping and murdering a girl in 2003.
The gang-rape of the 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 Centre for Policy Analysis think tank, said yesterday. "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 victim's 46-year-old mother said that all six suspects in that case, including one believed to be a juvenile, deserved to die.
She was quoted by a 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 they are 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.