Indian police arrested a man on allegations of rape and torture of a five-year-old girl in New Delhi, a spokesman said on Saturday, after the incident triggered protests and revived memories of a brutal December assault on a woman that shook the country.
The man, 22, was arrested from eastern Bihar state, and is being brought to the capital, Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said. The accused was a neighbor of the girl and did odd jobs, he said.
The assault on the girl, which left her in a critical condition, revived memories of the gang rape by five adult men and a teenaged boy of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus on December 16 in New Delhi.
That woman died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital where she was brought as anger poured in the streets of Delhi and elsewhere over the lack of safety for women.
Television images on Saturday showed people again gathered in front of the Delhi police headquarters and the specialty hospital where the latest victim was battling for life, chanting slogans and demanding better law enforcement in a city of 16 million people.
More protests were planned for Saturday, and security has been beefed up, television reports said.
The girl, whose parents work as laborers and live in a slum in the outskirts of Delhi, went missing from home on April 15, according to Manish Sisodia, an official of the Aam Aadmi Party which organized Friday's protest.
She was found with bruise marks on her body in the suspect's house in a semi-conscious condition on Thursday by police after her parents had registered a complaint, media reports said.
The suspect allegedly held the girl hostage for three days during which he raped and tortured her.
B.N. Bansal, a doctor from the Swami Dayanand Hospital, said that the young victim had undergone an operation after she was brought in. "The next 48 hours will be crucial for her."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office said in a statement that he was deeply disturbed by the latest incident. In December his administration had faced criticism for failing to respond to public anger over the horrific attack on the physiotherapy student.
The unprecedented protests by thousands of people across India eventually forced Singh's government to pass tougher laws to fight gender crimes in March.
But activists on Friday said the laws were not enough to deter sex offenders in India's largely patriarchal societies.
"If you thought just bringing in a new law will stop crimes, your are wrong. They will reduce, but won't stop. You need community policing to stop these crimes," activist Kiran Bedi told an Indian TV channel.