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THE grandson of a powerful Indian politician, Beant Singh, the chief minister of Punjab, has been arrested along with his armed bodyguards and charged with abducting and sexually molesting a French woman. The case has set off an uproar in the state, not for the alleged offences, which carry a maximum 10-year sentence, but because of the nine-day delay in making the arrests. Opposition leaders in the Punjab assembly are demanding that Mr Singh and his 'government of rapists' all resign. over the incident. Light has also been shed on the many grave excesses committed by Punjab police, who were given sweeping powers in their fight against Sikh separatists.

A 29-year-old French woman, known only as Katia, 29, was dining at a Chandigarh hotel with a Kenyan couple. According to press reports, she was invited to join Gurkirat Singh and his four police bodyguards at another table. She 'politely refused', but when she and her friends left the hotel, they were followed to the Kenyans' home by a police car.

There, it is alleged that Mr Singh, 22, his bodyguards and a student allegedly grabbed Katia and dragged her off. When the Kenyan couple tried to defend her, they were badly beaten by the police, it was said. The Frenchwoman was taken to a government bungalow where, according to her first statement, she was raped by the politician's grandson and his bodyguards throughout the night. She later amended this to molestation, the charge which has now been brought. Her passport, a gold chain and dollars 500 (330) were also reportedly stolen.

The tourist filed a complaint the next morning. and rang her embassy in New Delhi. It is understood that the French embassy's intervention kept the police from burying her charges. There was an An outcry was also kicked up among opposition leaders and the press over the police's failure to arrest Mr Singh.

When a warrant was finally issued for the arrest of Mr Singh and his bodyguards, it took 'over a hundred raids' to track them down, according to the Punjab police chief, K P S Gill. Two of the suspects are still in hiding.

Two of the chief minister's other grandsons have also been involved in 'Eve-teasing' - the Indian term for sexual harassment - but were never charged. One was expelled from school when he and his bodyguards told girls at gunpoint to wear short skirts rather than more modest traditional clothing.

When a warrant was finally issued for the arrest of Mr Singh and his bodyguards, it took 'over a hundred raids' to track them down, according to the Punjab police chief, KPS Gill. Two of the suspects are still in hiding.

The chief minister, elected two years ago, has managed to restore peace in the Punjab, a rich farm state where Sikh separatists had been fighting Indian security forces to establish an independent homeland. Mr Singh and his police chief are credited with crushing the Sikh insurgency, but at a high cost. Human rights violations are numerous. 'The police have been acting beyond the pale of the law time and again, and often in the most blatantly callous fashion,' India Today magazine reported. Amnesty International claims that over 14,000 people are being held without trial under India's strict anti-terrorism laws and that score of Punjabis have 'disappeared' in police custody.

Katia, who is being cared for by the French embassy in New Delhi, is said to be in a state of shock. However, the police want her to stay in India to testify.

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