- Family of alleged victim says it was offered money to drop case but refused
- Police: Woman says she was attacked by the same men who assaulted her in 2013
The woman, a Dalit, the lowest caste in Indian society , was returning home from college, where, according to a cousin, she excels in math and is studying to become a government worker with hopes of one day advocating for women’s rights.
That’s when the five men allegedly snatched her, said Pushpa Khatri, deputy superintendent of Rohtak police, which are leading the investigation.
“They were in the car. I saw them and got scared. They forced me into the car and then they strangled me,” the woman told CNN affiliate News 18 of the July 13 attack in the northern state of Haryana.
The woman is in stable condition at a Rohtak medical institute but remains in a state of shock, her cousin said. CNN is not identifying her cousin because Indian law prohibits the disclosure of information that would identify a rape victim. CNN also has its own policy against identifying rape victims.
On Tuesday, police announced they had arrested three suspects. It’s not clear if the alleged perpetrators from the 2013 attack were among the three arrested. Police said they are working to find the other two suspects, along with the car used to abduct the woman.
The suspects are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday. Per Indian law, police generally have 24 hours from the time of the arrest to finish their investigation, but authorities have said they will petition the court to hold the men longer as they finish their probe.
Courts typically grant the police 15 days in these situations, but depending on the crime, the extension could be as long as 90 days.
Police have formed teams to arrest the accused, who come from different parts of the state of Haryana. They’ve also sent teams to Bhiwani, the Haryana city where the alleged 2013 rape occurred, police said.
One of the suspects has given police closed-circuit TV footage showing he was not in Rohtak at the time of last week’s alleged rape, police told News 18. Another suspect provided call records indicating he was in Ambala, roughly a three-hour drive from Rohtak. Police told the station they are working to verify the alibis.
The woman’s family is alleging that the perpetrators, who they say come from a higher caste, have offered a large sum of money to withdraw the allegations, but the family refused.
The second-year college student says the crime she experienced last week was similar to an attack she suffered in 2013, and that two of the men involved last week raped her in 2013, according to Khatri, the deputy police superintendent.
Over the span of four days in October 2013, she was raped twice in Bhiwani, an hour west of Rohtak, she alleged. Police records classify those as different incidents, Khatri said.
The attackers were arrested in November 2013 and jailed, but the woman’s family members told police they were forced to move to Rohtak after receiving threats from the suspects and their friends, pressuring them to withdraw the case.
At the time of their arrests, the men told police that they had not known each other until they met in jail.
The two men were released on bail last month.
Asked why the men were granted bail, a spokesman for Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said the government cannot interfere or comment on such matters.
“That’s the prerogative of the court,” spokesman Amit Arya said. “Every citizen has the right to bail. It is part of the judicial process. But rest assured we are taking this very, very seriously.”
As for the family’s allegation of threats by the attackers, Arya said the government never received any such complaint.
“If we had known, we would have provided security,” he said.
Every 22 minutes
What happened last week in Rohtak was just the latest in a litany of shocking assaults that have stoked anger both inside India and beyond its borders. According to government statistics, a woman in India is raped, on average, every 22 minutes .
The fatal 2012 gang rape of a student on a bus in Delhi highlighted the grim frequency of sexual assaults in the country and led to tougher laws and sentences in rape cases.
Still, the media continue to report attacks on a daily basis, and the alleged victim’s cousin says stronger rape laws and heightened security don’t pertain to her caste.
“Laws may have changed, but for poor Dalits like us, nothing has changed,” he said.
Dalits, often relegated to the lowest rungs of Indian society, converged on Rohtak over the weekend, staging small protests to demand justice for the alleged victim, according to local media.
Arya, however, insisted that “crime is crime” and caste has no bearing on the investigation or the fight for justice.
“We are really very concerned and disturbed by this incident. Three accused have been arrested. We are looking to make more arrests. Those who have done this heinous crime will not be spared.”