NEW DELHI – A 22-year-old photojournalist was gang raped while her male colleague was tied up and beaten in an isolated, overgrown corner of India's business hub of Mumbai, police said Friday. The case was reminiscent of the December gang rape and death of a young university student in the Indian capital that shocked the country.
The latest attack took place Thursday evening in Lower Parel, a onetime textile-manufacturing neighborhood of south Mumbai that over the past decade has changed dramatically. Today, upscale malls, trendy restaurants and super-luxury condominiums sit side-by-side with abandoned textile mills and sprawling slums.
Police said the Indian woman was on assignment for a magazine to take pictures of the neighborhood when five men confronted her and her colleague at about 7 p.m. After initially offering to help her get permission to shoot inside a crumbling, isolated building, the men became aggressive and accused the male colleague of being involved in a local crime.
When he denied involvement in the crime, they tied his hands with a belt and took the woman to another part of the compound and took turns raping her, Mumbai's police commissioner, Satyapal Singh, told reporters.
Police on Friday arrested a suspect in the attack who named and identified the other four men, Singh said. While police have released sketches of the four men, Singh would not give their names or other details, saying authorities did not want to give them any warning that they were being sought. Singh said the men may have been local drug dealers.
The woman was in stable condition in a hospital. Police declined to say who she was working for at the time of the attack.
The assault comes amid heightened concerns about sexual violence in India. The gang rape and death of the student on a bus in New Delhi in December had shaken a country long inured to violence against women and sparked protests demanding better protection for women.
In response, the government passed a stringent law increasing prison terms for rape and making voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.
About 1,000 people, including members of several local journalists' associations, gathered Friday evening in south Mumbai to stage a silent protest. Some wore black armbands, while others carried placards reading "Stop rape" and "City of shame."
The attack was also discussed in India's Parliament, where junior Home Minister R.P.N. Singh told lawmakers that the government had asked the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, for a detailed report on the attack.
He said the federal government had recommended that the "harshest" punishment be handed down to anyone found guilty in the case.