Less than 13 months after Nirbhaya’s brutal gang-rape had city authorities promising a safer Delhi for women, precious little seems to have changed. Horror and shame revisited the capital on Tuesday, when a 51-year-old Danish tourist was repeatedly raped by eight-nine men in a garden just a stone’s throw away from Connaught Place in the heart of the city.
The outrage continued for more than three hours, most of it during the evening rush hours, at a time when central Delhi was on high alert ahead of Republic Day celebrations.
The survivor, on the last day of her India trip, was walking back to her Paharganj hotel around 4pm when she lost her way and entered the Railway Officers Club on State Entry Road near New Delhi Railway Station. There she was pushed into a small garden and robbed at knifepoint by the men described by police as vagabonds and drug-addicts.
The woman said the men took turns to rape her, three of them allegedly raping her twice. Around 7.30pm, the accused helped her scale the club wall, after which she reached her hotel and told the manager about the incident. The survivor refused to undergo a medical test and took a flight back to Copenhagen on Wednesday morning.
By 8.30pm on Wednesday, police claimed to have arrested two suspects and identified the rest. Special commissioner of police (law and order) Deepak Mishra confirmed the arrests.
The gang-leader, who first accosted the woman, has been identified as Mahender Ganja from Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh. An iPod, earplugs, Rs 8,000 in cash and a mobile phone allegedly bought with the stolen money have been recovered from him. Sources said Ganja was involved in two murder cases in the past.
The other accused has been identified as Raja. The survivor’s spectacle case and Rs 1,000 cash were found in his possession. Police have detained two others and were interrogating them till late in the evening. Four other suspects have been identified and teams are raiding places to nab them.
Police said the suspects mostly hang around in the area around State Entry Road. They commit petty crimes and often came to the garden to distribute money, sources said.
The survivor came to India on January 1 and stayed in the capital for a couple of days before leaving for Agra. She also visited other places, such as Mathura, and returned to Delhi on January 13. She checked into Amax Inn on Arakashan road, Paharganj, and was scheduled to take the return flight at 10.45am on Wednesday to Copenhagen.
On Tuesday morning, she visited the National Museum and National Gallery of Modern Art. She was returning to her hotel around 4pm when the attack took place.
She took the wrong turn on CP’s Outer Circle and got into State Entry Road instead of taking Qutab Road. “As I walked down the road, I reached a dead end after crossing the divisional manager’s office. I saw a board which said the Railway Officer’s club (the gate was open to move out things after Lohri celebrations). A teenager was standing beside it. I asked him for the way to Paharganj and also asked if I could take the left into the gate and proceed. He nodded and followed me,” she said in her statement, as quoted by a police source.
Suddenly, the man, later identified as Mahender, pushed her inside a small garden surrounded by trees. Four men, she said, were sitting there, consuming liquor. “They held my hand and asked me not to raise an alarm. They showed me a knife and told me to hand over my belongings. They took away around 700 euros, Indian currency, an iPod, a mobile phone, spectacles and a book. After that one of the men began to fondle me and started to take off my clothes. When I resisted, they threatened to stab me. I pleaded with them not to harm me,” she said in her statement.
The accused then took turns to rape her in the garden. After around three hours, she said, the men hurriedly wore clothes and fled scaling the wall near the rear gate. She put on a pair of jeans – which she later realized belonged to an accused – and came out of the garden.
“When I came to the gate, I found it shut from outside. It was pitch dark and I did not know what to do. Then the men who assaulted me helped me scale the wall. I took an e-rickshaw and reached the hotel and informed the manager,” she said. The Danish embassy was also informed subsequently.
Police were informed around 9.30pm. A case was registered around 1am under sections of gang-rape (376 G) and robbery with intention to cause death (392 IPC), wrongful restraint (342) and abduction (365). Six teams were formed under six SHOs and a manhunt launched.
NGO officials counseled the woman and her statement was recorded under 161 CrPC. She insisted on taking her scheduled flight at 10.45am so the NGO officials and cops escorted her to the airport and helped her board the flight. Police said the traumatized survivor collapsed at the airport, just before boarding.
A team was also rushed to provide her the FIR copy and get it received. The survivor said she would be available for investigations and trial, if required.