(Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave)
Six men accused of raping and robbing a 39-year-old Swiss woman while cycling with her husband in Central India were arraigned in court Monday amid statements by Indian police that seem to blame the victims for the attack.
The attack, in a jungle near Jhadia village Friday, has attracted worldwide attention after a woman died three months ago in India in a brutal gang-rape on a moving bus in New Delhi. The accused driver in the New Delhi case, Ram Singh, reportedly committed suicide in police custody last Monday.
The six men, who were arrested Sunday, appeared in a magistrate's court in Madhya Pradesh state on Monday afternoon, covering their faces with black cloth, and were sent to police custody for a day, Press Trust of India reported.
The couple, from Lausanne in Switzerland, reached New Delhi on Sunday morning, according to a Swiss embassy release. Police want them to return to Madhya Pradesh to identify the accused and the laptop, mobile phones and Indian rupees 10,000 (approximately $200) that were robbed.
On Sunday, police blamed the victim for the attack. "No one stops there. Why did they choose that place? They were in the wrong place at the wrong time," The Independent quoted Inspector Avnesh Kumar Budholiya as saying. "They would have passed a police station on the way to the area they camped. They should have stopped and asked about places to sleep."
The victim, a teacher, and her husband, a plumber, were cycling from a heritage tourism spot in Madhya Pradesh to the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh state when they decided to camp in a jungle near Jhadia village on Friday. In the night, the men, mostly in their 20s, broke into their camp, handcuffed the husband, tied him to a tree and raped the woman, according to NDTV. They then fled with their belongings.
The injured couple hitched a ride from a passer-by to reach a police station, and were taken to the hospital.
They arrived in Mumbai from Iran last Tuesday, and were on a bicycle tour since then. They had avoided going to Pakistan, thinking it would be unsafe.
"They were provided medical assistance on their arrival and are currently recovering," the embassy said. "While speaking to Ambassador Linus von Castelmur the couple expressed their readiness to fully cooperate in the ongoing investigation and identification process. They will continue to stay in India for the moment."
The incident comes months after a 23-year-old physiotherapy student died on Dec. 29 after being brutally gang-raped in a moving bus. The incident led to mass protests in New Delhi and elsewhere.
In the New Delhi attack, police records say an underage suspect, one of the six accused, raped her twice after she was hit with iron rods and fell unconscious. He extracted her intestine with his bare hands.
On the night of Dec. 16, when the woman and her friend boarded a private bus – being driven by joyriders – after watching a movie in South Delhi, the juvenile reportedly invited them in, saying the bus was going where they wanted to go.
The six men inside the bus began harassing the woman. When her friend intervened, they hit him on his head with an iron rod several times until fell unconscious. When the woman tried to rescue him, they hit her with the same rod. They took turns raping and assaulting her. Injuries indicated that a blunt object, possibly a rusted wheel jack, may have been used for penetration.
The accused then threw the two from the moving bus, and tried unsuccessfully to run over the victim.