January 5, 2013 12:17 pm

Indian police accused of fatal delay

Female commuters ride a scooter past a billboard, calling for capital punishment against rape, in New Delhi©AFP

A billboard in New Delhi calling for capital punishment against rape

Indian police have been criticised by the companion of a fatal gang rape victim, who said they took more than two-and-a-half hours to take the critically injured woman to a hospital as they argued over who had jurisdiction in the case.

Three weeks after a brutal attack on a 23-year-old that unleashed national outrage over the treatment of women in India, the friend who was accompanying her that night broke his silence on the ghastly events.

In an interview with Zee News – a leading Hindi news channel, the young man said the police took 45 minutes to arrive, and then stood gaping at the young couple, who were both naked, and did not even provide them any covering, as they argued over what to do.

Although he had been badly beaten with iron rods during the attack, the young man, whose face was clearly shown in the interview but whose name was not provided, said he had to carry his severely injured friend to the police van.

“The policeman didn’t help us because my friend was bleeding profusely and police were probably worried about their clothes,” he told the TV channel. “Even at the hospital, we were made to wait, and I had to literally beg for clothes.”

The interview on national television is likely to reinforce widespread perceptions that India’s police, especially those assigned to street patrols, are indifferent and unprofessional.

New Delhi’s police have responded to the criticism by filing criminal charges against Zee TV for allegedly revealing the identity of the gang rape victim by broadcasting the interview with her friend, though neither his nor her name was mentioned.

The young man’s testimony has spread widely on the internet, and social media sites, and the police action, as well as the details of his testimony, are likely to further erode public confidence in state agencies.

The attack on the 23-year-old woman occurred on December 16, as the young couple were going home after watching a film at an upmarket shopping mall. Lured on board a private bus whose conductor promised to drop them at their destination, they were brutally beaten, the man knocked unconscious and the girl repeatedly raped and brutalised with an iron rod.

They were eventually thrown out of the bus, left for dead, before they were picked up by police after nearly an hour.

In his interview, the young man said the victim, who battled for life for 13 days after the grievous attack, might have survived if she had received medical treatment at a better hospital, instead of a dilapidated government hospital.

The young woman was treated in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, where she underwent three abdominal surgeries to remove her intestines. Two days before she died, she was airlifted to a top hospital in Singapore, in a last-ditch attempt to save her, though health professionals suggest her condition had already deteriorated too far by then.

“If she was treated in a better hospital, she probably would have been alive today,” he said.

India’s severely underfunded public hospitals are notorious for their poor quality, including the unhygienic conditions, which mean even the poor seek private medical care if they can afford it.

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