India gang-rape account: 'Police argued amongst themselves instead of calling an ambulance'
The man, who has not been named due to the sensitivity of the case, was sitting in a wheelchair, his leg broken, as he revealed for the first time the details of the brutal assault. His 23-year-old friend died over the weekend from multiple-organ failure.
The two of them had just finished watching the movie “Life of Pi” and were unable to find an auto-rickshaw to take them to the bus stop. Instead a private bus stopped to pick them up, the key witness told Indian TV network Zee TV.
Only six people were aboard. The man said it felt like “a trap” as they started harassing and attacking the pair. As the girl and man tried to fight back, the assailants brought out an iron rod.
The woman tried to call the police, but the cell phone was taken away. Then the gang then dragged her to rear seats and raped her.
After two hours or so, the men dumped the victims on road side and tried to run them over with the bus before leaving, the man said.
Naked and bleeding, the pair lay on the roadside for at least 25 minutes before a passer-by called the police. The man says he had been waving at private cars and auto rickshaws for help, but most of them chose not to stop.
The police eventually arrived but instead of calling an ambulance and giving the two clothes, they “wasted time” by arguing over who had jurisdiction over the crime. In the end, the man received no medical help at all, he claimed. Instead he was taken to a police station where he was “helping the investigation” for four days.
The police have denied the accusation saying they hurried to the scene and sent the pair to hospital immediately.
But local residents told the AP that this was not true and police spent over 30 minutes arguing. The rape victim's brother also said the delay led to complications which perhaps caused the woman’s death.
The attack has sent reverberations across India, with thousands taking to the streets to demand better public safety and tougher laws against rape and other crimes against women.
"The victim's friend also said that there wasn't a single piece of clothing on her body. Still no one gave her clothes. No-one helped her. So along with the police, even the common people of our society are responsible for what happened," protesting student Rapali Dayday said outside the court complex in New Delhi where the trial of the alleged assailants is being held.
Sunday’s protest comes a day after the court asked police to produce the five men accused of the rape and murder for pre-trial proceedings Monday.
Ram Singh, the main accused in the case, his brother Mukesh and their accomplices Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur have all been charged for the offenses of murder, gang-rape, attempted murder, kidnapping, unnatural offenses, wounding in the commission of a robbery, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and common intention under the Indian Penal Code.
All five men have admitted to torturing and raping the student, saying they wanted "to teach her a lesson" after she fought back and bit three of them. Protesters and the victim’s family are demanding the death penalty for them.
In an apparent attempt to avoid capital punishment, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma refused to accept the services of legal aid counsel and expressed their willingness to act as witnesses on behalf of the state, the Press Trust of India reported.
At the same time, the most brutal assailant will be tried separately in a juvenile court, as he is just 17. Police believe he raped the woman twice then attempted to pull out her intestines with his bare hands. It’s also alleged he later suggested the victims should be thrown from the moving vehicle.
The Indian law stipulates that people under the age of 18 cannot face the death penalty, and the maximum penalty is three years in jail. This has led to calls for the minimum punishable age to be lowered to 16.
Meanwhile, Indian officials have been calling for the victim’s name be disclosed. The Minister of State for Human Resourses Shashi Tharoor says a new law on rape prosecution could be named after the girl. The father agreed, Reuters reported.
"My daughter didn't do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself," the woman's father told Britain's Sunday People newspaper. "I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter."
While the name was top trend in Twitter microblogs, many media avoid identifying the girl. It is unclear whether publishing the name could still be prosecutable offence.
Indian law prohibits the disclosure of names to protect the victims of sexual assaults from the stigma associated with such crimes, which can be devastating to a person and their family in Indian society. This has been cited as one of the major reasons why rape cases are underreported in India. Another factor is the seeming indifference of the police and the poor rate of prosecution. In 2011, of 95,000 pending rape cases only 15 percent made it to trial.