In India, suicide of another rape victim puts spotlight on inaction


On the evening of Dec. 26, as an Indian government-chartered jet was heading to Singapore with a critically injured New Delhi gang rape victim on board, the teenage survivor of another gang rape was taking her own life.

After writing a suicide note on a page torn from a notebook that named her alleged attackers and accused them of destroying her life, the 17-year-old schoolgirl drank pesticide typically used on the wheat fields surrounding her village in the northern state of Punjab.

By the time she was found, she was in agony and vomiting repeatedly, relatives said. Little-seen television footage shows her arriving at a hospital wrapped in a red blanket, unconscious or already dead, as her weeping mother cradles her head.

The brutality of last month's gang rape in New Delhi, which led to the death of the woman, generated anger across the country. But the police handling of the Punjab assault has also sparked outrage and debate about how the police and judicial system often fail victims.

"Enough is enough," Punjab Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri declared in court as he demanded a full police account of their handling of a "very sordid state of affairs".

India's understaffed and overburdened courts can take years to process rape cases, sometimes up to 10 years, according to police and lawyers. Just 26 percent of rape cases decided in 2011 led to convictions, says the National Crime Records Bureau.

The Punjab girl alleged that on Diwali, the biggest day in the Hindu religious calendar, she was abducted, drugged and raped by two men in an irrigation pump house in the middle of a field where, she said, nobody heard her screams.

Four accused - two alleged attackers and two accomplices - are in custody awaiting trial for rape of the schoolgirl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

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