Thousands of people angry over alleged police inaction after a six-year-old girl was raped at her school in southern India rallied Saturday to demand that authorities arrest those responsible for the attack.
More than 4,000 parents and relatives of children who attend the school in Bangalore, India's technology hub, shouted slogans against the school's administration and demanded that police arrest those involved in the July 2 incident, which was reported only this past week.
They carried placards that read "Enough is enough" and "We want justice," and walked more than 4 kilometres to one of Bangalore's main police stations.
Police said the girl was assaulted when she left her classroom to go to the bathroom. They said she was recovering from the incident, but did not give further details.
The attack has raised questions about the safety of India's schoolchildren and sparked nationwide outrage over rampant sexual violence against girls and women. The school has refused to take responsibility for the crime.
School staff questioned by police
Angry lawmakers discussed the incident in the state assembly on Friday and demanded that the government of Karnataka state, of which Bangalore is the capital, punish the school principal and other administrators who allegedly tried to hush the matter.
The parents have said they will keep their children out of school until steps are in place to ensure their safety.
Police said eight members of the school's staff had been detained for questioning. The protesters squatted outside a police station and refused to move until the city's police chief assured them the suspects would be arrested.
Official statistics say about 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. Activists, though, say that number is just a tiny percentage of the actual number, since victims are often pressed by family or police to stay quiet about sexual assaults.
Indian officials, who for decades had done little about sexual violence, have faced growing public anger since the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus, an attack that sparked national outrage.
The nationwide outcry led the federal government to rush legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.
Exhumation of bodies of 2 teens postponed
Also on Saturday, Indian federal investigators suspended the exhumation of the bodies of two teenage girls — cousins who were allegedly raped and found hanging by their necks from a tree in May — as heavy rainfall inundated the burial area.
Authorities had decided to exhume the bodies after local police cast doubt on whether the girls had been sexually
assaulted and suggested instead that it could have been a case of a so-called honour killing by their families.
Five men, two of them police officers, were arrested in connection with the killing of the girls, aged 14 and 15, in the
northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The two cousins, from a low-caste community, went missing from their village when they went out to use outdoor toilets. The next morning, villagers found their bodies hanging from a mango tree in a nearby orchard.
The investigation agency will resume the exhumation on Sunday if water levels recede, a local police officer said.
Authorities also took down a tent next to the burial ground where a team of seven doctors were to carry out the autopsies.