Indian police arrest second man over girl's rape

Indian police arrested a second man over the kidnap and rape of a five-year-old girl, as officers on Monday faced further protests and a hail of accusations that they botched their handling of the case.

After a weekend of demonstrations in the capital, crowds again vented their anger over levels of sexual violence in New Delhi, which first erupted in December after the savage gang-rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus.

Doctors, meanwhile, said the five-year-old victim of the latest attack was in a stable condition after being left for dead and was able to talk to her parents.

Police said they had arrested a second man late Sunday over the attack, which began on April 15 when the youngster was allegedly abducted from her home before being raped and mutilated.

Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar conceded "there were shortfalls" in the police reaction and that "they had not responded as they should have", but rejected protesters' calls for him to quit, saying it would serve no purpose.

"If my resigning will prevent such depraved action of the society then I am prepared to resign 1,000 times, but that is not going to address the problem," he told a packed news conference.

"The problem is one of mental depravity," he said, adding rapes were "opportunistic crimes", with 97 percent carried out by people known to the victim, such as relatives and neighbours.

The two accused are garment worker Manoj Kumar, 22, a tenant in the girl's house who was arrested last Friday, and his friend Pradeep Kumar, taken into custody at his uncle's home in eastern Bihar state.

Commissioner Kumar denied allegations that police were slow to register the disappearance of the child by the parents, who live in a working-class neighbourhood.

The parents' complaint "was lodged on the same day it was reported. And let us assume -- even if it was registered within five minutes -- the rape had already been committed," Kumar said.

He added that police were trying to identify two officers who allegedly offered the parents 2,000 rupees (around $35) to keep quiet about the case and told them they should be grateful their daughter was still alive.

He also said the chief investigating officer and a senior colleague who was seen on camera slapping a protester had been suspended.

The latest developments came as protesters massed outside the hospital where the victim is being treated and at police headquarters to voice their fury at the force's conduct.

"I want justice for this little girl. If they had acted in time the tragic incident could have been averted," said student Amod Kumar, 25.

"They should have taken the missing complaint seriously and acted immediately. The parents were turned away only because they are poor and helpless," he said.

India's noisy and often dysfunctional parliament was repeatedly adjourned amid protests by opposition lawmakers demanding better security for women.

The police force earlier came in for heavy criticism over the gang-rape of the student on December 16, which took place on a bus which passed through various checkpoints late at night.

Commissioner Kumar rejected protesters' changes there had been no improvements in safety for women in Delhi -- known as the "rape capital" of India -- since the December case.

"Lots have changed," he insisted, citing a 159 percent rise in reported rape cases and a 600 percent increase in molestation cases.

"This shows the (police) tendency earlier to dissuade women from registering their cases has changed dramatically," he said.

India's umbrella chamber of commerce group, ASSOCHAM, said the police failure to protect women was undermining productivity in areas where they account for many of the workforce, such as the health service and IT industry.

The Times of India newspaper said a new law dealing with sexual violence should be used to act against police who fail in their duty of protection "so the message goes down the line that negligence will not be tolerated".

The attack on the five-year-old is one of a string of horrifying child abuse cases in the last week, including the rape of a four-year-old girl at a construction site in central India.

In a weekend speech, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for a collective effort to "root out this sort of depravity from our society".