A policeman in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is on the run after allegations that he raped a 13-year-old girl who went to police to report she had been gang raped.
A criminal case has been registered against him and he has been suspended, a senior police official said.
The girl alleged that she had been gang raped by four men last month. The report has led to outrage in India with many people expressing anger on social media.
In his complaint to the police, the girl’s father alleged that four men had taken his daughter to the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh where they sexually assaulted her for four days. The men then brought her back to her village in Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh (UP) before they fled.
The next day, the officer in charge of the local police station raped the girl when she went to the police station with her aunt to lodge a complaint, NDTV news channel reported.
Lalitpur district police chief Nikhil Pathak told reporters that the girl, who was brought to his office by the Childline charity, told him what had happened. “When I was informed, I made sure a case was filed,” he said.
The news of the incident has caused outrage with many questioning law and order in India’s most populous state.
In a tweet in Hindi, senior Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra asked “if police station are not safe for women, then where will they go to complain”?
“Has the UP government seriously thought to increase the deployment of women in police stations, to make police station safe for women?” she added.
Rapes and crimes against women have been in the spotlight since December 2012 when a young woman was brutally gang-raped on a bus in the capital, Delhi. She later died from injures sustained during the attack.
The incident made headlines around the world and led to mass protests in Delhi. India was forced to introduce tough new laws to deal with crimes of a sexual nature. Four men were executed in 2020 after being found guilty of the crime.
But despite the increased scrutiny, thousands of rapes continue to be reported in the country every year. In 2020, the last year for which crime data is available, 28,379 women and girls were raped in India – that’s an average of a rape every 18 minutes.
Campaigners say the actual numbers are much higher as many are not even reported, often because the first respondents, the police – are unsympathetic.
The state of Uttar Pradesh is especially criticised for the way authorities respond to crimes against women.
In 2020, the state made headlines after a 19-year-old woman died after reporting that she had been gang-raped and brutally assaulted. The police and administration officials cremated her body in the middle of the night without her family’s consent.