Indian feminists and gender-rights activists reacted angrily Tuesday to reports of the alleged gang rape of a 14-year-old girl by three soldiers on a moving train in West Bengal.
“This is a ghastly incident,” Ranjana Kumari, who directs the Center for Social Research, a New Delhi-based NGO that promotes the empowerment of women and girls in India, told BenarNews.
The incident also sparked protests in West Bengal.
“These incidents are unacceptable and they all should be court-martialed by the army,” Kumari said.
One soldier has been arrested, but two other suspects and fellow army members remain at-large, officials said Tuesday.
According to police, the attack occurred Monday morning aboard a train traveling from Howrah, West Bengal, to Amritsar in Punjab state.
The girl, a resident of Kolkata, was allegedly raped after she entered the wrong passenger compartment, where the soldiers were sitting, Arjun Tiwari, an officer with the government’s railway police, told BenarNews.
“The incident took place when the victim was going to the washroom,” he said.
The victim was rescued at a railway station in Jharkhand, a state that borders West Bengal, when a group of social workers notified police that they found the unconscious girl inside the train.
The girl later underwent a medical examination, according to a senior police officer in Madanpur, West Bengal.
The soldier under arrest, Manjrish Tripathi, was taken to a court in West Bengal on Tuesday and remanded to seven days in police custody.
Tripathi allegedly forced the girl to drink alcohol, Tiwari said.
Elsewhere in Kolkata on Tuesday, police detained dozens of activists who gathered outside the governor’s residence on Tuesday to demonstrate against the incident.
Meanwhile, a senior officer with the army’s Western Command in Punjab told BenarNews that the army would cooperate fully with police in their investigation.
“We are looking into the matter and investigating it at our own level as well,” said the officer who requested anonymity.
93 rapes per day
Rape is a widespread problem in India, and the alleged case aboard the train was not India’s latest reported case.
On Tuesday, police in the western state of Maharashtra said they arrested two contract workers for allegedly raping a woman on the Pune campus of Infosys, an information technology firm.
According to a report by Agence France-Presse, which cited local police, the assailants filmed the alleged attack.
The number of rape cases is growing nationwide. According statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau publicized last year, an average of 93 women are raped every day in India.
“This is not a new incident. We have seen such cases from the army personnel in the Manipur and Kashmir as well,” Anindita Sarbadhikari, a filmmaker and feminist based in West Bengal, told BenarNews.
To prevent such incidents from recurring, the country needs “maximum representation of women in all the fields,” she said.