Fresh anger swept through Delhi after a five-year-old girl was taken to hospital having been allegedly raped by a neighbour. Protesters clashed with police, who were accused of trying to bribe the family to keep quiet, and a senior police officer was suspended after striking a woman protester.
In the latest incident to create outcry, it emerged the young girl had been raped and assaulted after being snatched from her home on Monday. It is alleged that the man who took her, rented a room in the same building as that of the girl's family in the Gandhi Nagar area of east Delhi.
The family were alerted after hearing the girl's cries on Wednesday. When she was eventually inspected by doctors, it emerged that a bottle and pieces of candle had been inserted inside her. She said she had not had food or water for two days.
"This is the first time that I have seen such barbarism with a five-year-old," RK Bansal, medical superintendent of the Swami Dayanand hospital, where the youngster underwent an operation, told reporters.
He added: "There were injuries on her lips and cheeks and bruise marks on her neck, suggesting that attempts were made to strangle her. The blood pressure was way below normal, and she had fever when she was admitted."
The young girl was later taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi where her condition was said to be stable. Activists and family members clashed with police, who were accused of giving money to the family and telling them to forget the matter. The girl's father said police had refused to register a case when he went to report her missing.
"The police tried to suppress the matter and even offered [£24] to the family to keep quiet," a spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi party, Aswathi Muralidharan, told the Indo-Asian News Service. "On top of that, the child was admitted to a hospital which does not even have proper facilities and equipment."
The incident is the latest in a series of sexual attacks in Delhi that have created outcry in the aftermath of the December 16 gang-rape and murder of a Delhi student. The authorities have vowed to do more to protect women and police have been ordered to take steps to make the city safer.
Indian media reported that the ministry of home affairs had summoned senior Delhi police officials demanding a full report on what took place.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh said he was "deeply disturbed" by what had taken place. According to the Press Trust of India, he said the way police had treated the woman protesters was "completely unacceptable".