New Delhi/Bangalore: The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded the strictest possible legal penalties against criminals accused of sexual violence.
Senior BJP leaders and its coalition partners of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) met in New Delhi over the weekend to discuss the issue. The meetings were also attended by the convenor of NDA, Sharad Yadav of Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
Angry crowds have been demonstrating across India in protest against the alleged rape. Protests that began on April 19 grew more intense after video footage showed a policeman slapping a woman protester, and following reports that investigators had offered the victim`s family 2,000 rupees not to file a case.
It was the second case of alleged rape in 48 hours to trigger protests and heavy-handed policing, after hundreds of people fought police in Aligarh, 135 kilometres from Delhi, on April 18. One policeman was filmed hitting an old woman hard with a long baton during the protest.
"Here the media is there to highlight such matters. But what about those places where the backward classes and the tribal people live? There is nobody to listen to them. This ACP (Assistant Commissioner of Police, who was caught on camera slapping a protesting lady) is anti-women and he should be removed immediately. This is our demand," said demonstrator, Prashant Sahi.
Demonstrators also held a candlelight vigil in the Town Hall in Bangalore.
"Each day in India, a rape is happening. If you go to a village or a city, nowhere women are safe. If you take an approximate then in Delhi, each hour a girl is getting raped. So where are we going? Is this the same country where Swami Vivekananda said that girls are like our mothers?" said demonstrator, Rajesh.
Public fury over the latest attack in the capital echoed the response to the gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus on December 16 in New Delhi, which brought thousands of people onto the streets in protest and clashes with police.
The woman eventually died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital.
The gang rape provoked rare national debate about violence against women, putting the issue onto the political agenda in the nation of 1.2 billion people a year before elections.
Police identified the accused as a 22-year-old, who they said had fled the capital after leaving the girl for dead in an apartment of the same building where her family lives.
The accused was a temporary worker in garment factories and lived with his father, a juice seller, police said. TV news channels reported that some people tried to attack the man and others threw shoes at him as police led him through Patna airport in Bihar state to board a plane back to New Delhi.
Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat declined to comment on reports that the girl`s family had been offered money not to file a case, adding he would only do so after an investigation.
New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India`s major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures.