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Rape of 5-year-old ignites furious protest in India

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

NEW DELHI — Several hundred people protesting the rape and kidnapping of a 5-year-old girl descended on police headquarters Saturday, waving signs, overrunning barriers and calling for the resignation of the capital city's police commissioner.

The angry demonstration, which spread to a hospital and the homes of two senior officials, was reminiscent of the outcry after a 23-year-old student was brutally raped and killed in December, a crime that shook the nation and led to tougher laws and the creation of special courts for rape cases.

Police arrested Manoj Kumar, 22, who reportedly had fled to the central impoverished state of Bihar after the attack. Authorities said he was being returned to New Delhi to face rape, kidnapping and attempted murder charges. He reportedly lived in the same building as the young victim.

Public anger has been directed at police who, according to news reports, offered the child's family $40 to keep quiet and told them they were lucky their child was alive. In addition, video showed a policeman slapping a female protester.

Sushil Kumar Shinde, India's home minister, said an official inquiry would consider allegations of police negligence. A judge imposed restrictions on public assemblies around India Gate, a monument and popular protest site in the capital.

According to police and local news reports, the 5-year-old went missing Monday evening while playing in front of the building where her family lives in a New Delhi slum. Police said the child was taken to another apartment in the building, and over a 40-hour period was attacked, strangled and left for dead before neighbors heard her cries.

The suspect, who reportedly was recently married, was described as a garment factory worker who lived with his father, a juice seller. He fled after the attack to his in-laws' hometown in Bihar and was apprehended with the help of cellphone records, authorities said.

Doctors at the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital told reporters that the child's condition was stable and she was “conscious and alert,” but her wounds were infected and she could require corrective surgery.

The victim's name will not be released because of her age and the nature of the crime, but the Indian news media have dubbed her Masoom, or “Innocent.”

The brutality of the attack has shocked the nation.

B.N. Bansal, a doctor with Swami Dayanand Hospital, where the victim was first taken for treatment, told reporters on Friday that early, effective treatment was essential. He said the child had bruises on her lips, cheeks and arms and cuts around her neck.

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