After raping the 7-year-old girl with a water hose in New Delhi, the attacker handed her 10 rupees and a piece of chocolate in exchange for her silence, according to her mother. He then left her – a towel around her waist and bleeding – near her home.
The 26-year-old mother scooped up the frightened child and asked her to point out the man, she told CNN on Thursday.
“She was holding her stomach and she was bleeding,” said the mother, whose name is being withheld because rape victims and their families cannot be identified under Indian law. “When I saw her blood, there was no strength left in my body.”
The girl later picked out the attacker in a crowd of men gathered nearby, she said.
“I felt that there is no life in my body and there is no ground below my feet,” the mother said.
A 21-year-old has been arrested in connection with the rape, which occurred in the district of Shahdara in the northeastern part of the city, said Meghna Yadav, a deputy commissioner with the Delhi Police. She said she could not provide further details.
Swati Maliwal, chairwoman of the Delhi Commission for Women, said the girl was in extreme pain after the attack.
The girl’s mother said the man also wrapped the hose around her daughter’s neck after raping her on Monday. She described the man as a rag picker who rummages through refuse in the streets.
The girl was in critical condition at a New Delhi hospital after undergoing surgery for injuries she suffered in the attack, officials said Wednesday. Her mother was by her bedside after the girl underwent hours of surgery.
“He should be hanged,” the mother said of the suspect. “Life imprisonment is too small a punishment. It is nothing compared to what he has done.”
Asked whether she was concerned about the long-term mental effects of the assault, the girl’s mother said, “She will have to forget about this. … She should just forget.”
‘A girl with so much strength’
On Thursday, her mother said the girl was walking and eating and that doctors expected her to recover physically.
“They are saying that thank God that your daughter is strong. … This is the first time we have seen a girl with so much strength,” she said.
Maliwal told CNN her group was working on a rehabilitation plan for the young victim.
“It is very unfortunate that these rape cases are not ending in Delhi,” she said. “Police resources continue to be extremely low in Delhi.”
In a series of tweets, Maliwal provided additional details of the attack, saying the girl, who comes from a poor family, had been lured to a park in Seemapuri, where the perpetrator assaulted her. She was bleeding “incessantly” after the attack, Maliwal tweeted.
“Cannot describe the pain the little girl was experiencing. Already malnourished, she has a long struggle ahead,” she added.
“We are going to support her in her legal fight to ensure death penalty to her culprits. Will file compensation application & shall make all efforts to rehabilitate her.”
India’s scourge of rape
A string of attacks on girls in the past year has sparked outrage in India. The latest rape conjures memories of a December 2012 attack that put India’s rape crisis under a spotlight.
In that incident, six males boarded a private bus, grabbed a 23-year-old woman, incapacitated a man with whom she had gone to the movies and proceeded to take turns raping the woman while beating her with an iron rod. She died of organ failure after being transported to Singapore for further treatment.
Four men were sentenced to hang, one committed suicide in prison in 2013 and a juvenile attacker was sentenced to three years in juvenile detention.
In April, India introduced a temporary law that makes raping a minor or participating in a gang rape punishable by death.
Kiren Rijiju, India’s minister of state for home affairs, in an interview with CNN stopped short of saying India has a problem with sexual violence but acknowledged, “Whatever we have been doing is not enough. … It’s shameful for our whole society.”
In a country as vast as India “to control the crime rate, especially sexual offenses, it’s a big challenge for all of us,” he said.
Rijiju said stiffer penalties and new measures to ensure speedy justice had been put in place – but that the country needed to focus on how to prevent such attacks in the first place. “Even one incident of the brutal case of rape is shameful for all of us,” he said.
The minister accepted that part of the problem was a lack of police personnel in different parts of the country, including Delhi. “Shortage of police personnel is everywhere in the country… Our forces in the police are not adequate as per the requirement,” he said.
Men accused of rape ordered to do situps and pay a fine
More recently, the rape and killing of an 8-year-old Muslim girl stoked a furor and religious tensions after police found the girl’s body in a forest in the isolated Himalayan district of Kathua. She had been kidnapped on January 12 while grazing horses.
The girl was drugged, gang-raped and strangled before her body was dumped in the forest five days later, police said. Three police officers and a former government official were among the eight Hindu men arrested in the attack.
Police in May announced they had arrested a primary suspect in the gang rape and burning death of a 16-year-old girl in the northeastern state of Jharkhand. The man arrested was one of 20 accused in the attack.
The girl’s family sought justice from a village council, which ordered the men to do situps and pay a 50,000-rupee ($750) fine. The order enraged the accused rapists, who then assaulted the victim’s parents and set their house on fire, killing the girl inside, said Ashok Ram, the officer in charge of the local police station.
Days later, a man raped a 17-year-old in her relative’s home in Jharkhand state before setting her ablaze and fleeing, police said.
A rape every 13.5 minutes
In another shocking case, an 11-year-old girl in Chennai was drugged and gang-raped in July by 17 men, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s, who worked in the building where she lived, according to police.
Other recent alleged victims include a 15-year-old in Bihar state who told police in July she was repeatedly raped by a principal, two teachers and 16 boys over the course of six months; and a 17-year-old girl who in April accused an Uttar Pradesh legislator of participating in her gang rape over the course of nine days in June 2017.
In the latter case, the girl’s father was fatally assaulted the day after she attempted to set herself on fire in front of the home of an Uttar Pradesh official. Passersby stopped her.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 39,000 rapes in India in 2016 – a rate of roughly one rape every 13.5 minutes. The total marked a 12% increase from the previous year.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez reported and wrote from New York, and CNN’s Sugam Pokharel and Anna Coren reported from New Delhi. CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.