India Rape Victim Had Many Onlookers, No Savior

Passers-by looked on, and police wasted time discussing jurisdiction, as the India gang-rape victim and her male friend lay naked and bleeding by the road after being thrown off a moving bus, the victim's companion recalls. Her brother says timely help could have saved her life.

A shameful police and public apathy preceded the ongoing widespread protests over last month's gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi – who later succumbed to injuries from an assault that involved penetration of a blunt, rusted iron object, said the victim's friend, who spoke for the first time to a private Indian channel, Zee News, on Friday.

"We were without clothes. We tried to stop passers-by," he said. "Several auto rickshaws, cars and bikes slowed down but none stopped for about 25 minutes. Then, someone on patrolling stopped and called the police," who arrived about 45 minutes later.

Police then wasted time in trying to determine which police station had jurisdiction over the incident, he added. They neither gave them clothes and nor called an ambulance. "They were just watching us." After repeated requests, he was given a strip of cloth to cover the woman.

While hundreds of youth continue to protest in Delhi, demanding stricter rape laws and better protection of women, the victim's brother lamented on Saturday that a delay in providing medical assistance to his sister led to complications, which perhaps led to her death.

"She told me that after the incident that she had asked passers-by for help but to no avail and it was only after the highway patrol alerted the police that she was rushed to hospital but it had taken almost two hours," he told Press Trust of India. "By then a lot of blood was lost. Had the passers-by helped and if prompt medical assistance was provided, perhaps her life could have been saved."

The victim's friend told Zee News he carried the badly injured woman to the police vehicle on his own as "the policemen didn't help us because my friend was bleeding profusely and they were probably worried about their clothes."

"My friend was bleeding profusely; I was more concerned about her. But instead of taking us to a nearby hospital, they (police) took us to a hospital that was far away," said the friend, a software engineer.

Even at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, the two were made to wait. "I had to literally beg for clothes. I asked one safai karamchari (sweeper) to give me some clothes or curtains, and he asked me to wait. But the clothes never came. I then borrowed a stranger's mobile and called my relatives, but just told them that I had met with an accident. My treatment started only after my relatives came," he said.

The friend also spoke about the bravery of the woman, a physiotherapy student whose father had to sell a piece of land to support her studies. "When I had met my friend in the hospital, she was smiling. She was able to write and was positive. I never felt that she did not want to live," he said, adding what happened to her couldn't be compared even with the "brutality of animals to their prey."

On Christmas, four days before she died, the victim "gestured with her fingers that she was going to heaven," BBC quoted the father, Hindu by religion, as saying on Wednesday.

The woman was born and brought up in southwest Delhi. Her parents migrated from a small village in the nearby Uttar Pradesh state in 1983. Her father said she wanted to build a hospital in their native village.

The tragic incident took place on the night of Dec. 16, when the woman and his friend boarded a private bus – being driven by joyriders – after watching a movie in South Delhi. A juvenile reportedly invited them in, saying the bus was going where they wanted to go.

Six men, including the juvenile, inside the bus began harassing the woman. When her friend intervened, they hit him on his head with an iron rod several times until he was unconscious. When the woman tried to rescue him, they hit her with the same rod. They took turns raping and assaulting her. According to reports, 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 to run over the victim. Her friend, who had gained consciousness by then, dragged her to a corner to save her.

Police records say the underage suspect raped the 23-year-old physiotherapy student twice after she was hit with iron rods and fell unconscious. He extracted her intestine with his bare hands.

Police on Thursday filed formal charges of murder, gang rape, robbery and banditry against the five men. The sixth accused has claimed he is juvenile and police are conducting tests to determine his real age.