Three men have been arrested for allegedly raping a woman and her 13-year-old daughter during a highway robbery in Bulandshahr, Meerut DIG Lakshmi Singh said on Monday.
The Uttar Pradesh Police, widely criticised for failing to respond to the emergency calls made by the victims’ family during the three-hour ordeal on Saturday morning, had a day later zeroed in on the three suspects who are in their early 20s.
The men were brought in for questioning and a 300-member task force set up to arrest their accomplices.
“The girl and her mother picked out the three suspects from 200 photographs we pulled out of our database of local criminals,” Singh said on Sunday.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, whose government suspended seven policemen in the wake of the outcry and is under pressure over law and order situation in the state, had set a 24-hour deadline for the force to nab the culprits.
Five to six armed men waylaid the Noida-based family’s car on the Delhi-Kanpur highway near Dostpur village at 1.15am Saturday, the FIR said.
The men dragged the victims to nearby fields, tied up the three male members and an elderly woman and raped the teen and her 35-year-old mother. The assault lasted over two hours before the attackers fled with cash and valuables, it said.
One of the family members managed to free himself by gnawing at the ropes with his teeth, police sources said. He called the police from his mobile phone, which the attackers left behind. It was 4.15am by the time the victims were rescued, rain-soaked and in shock.
DGP Javed Ahmed, who visited the crime scene, had said the police raided nearby areas and detained 15 people, including the three suspects.
Both officers indicated the involvement of local nomadic criminals. “Their modus operandi and the fact they fearlessly committed such a crime 40-50 metres from the highway indicates some of them must be locals,” Singh said.
She said two of the attackers tried to dissuade their partners from raping the women, who were hit with hammers when they protested the sexual assault.
Two iron axles thrown at the car to stop it had been recovered.
“Arrest all those involved and the state government will pursue the case strongly in court,” CM Yadav was quoted as saying by his spokesperson. His Twitter handle said he would meet the family soon.
The remarks came as opposition parties attacked his Samajwadi Party government, saying there was ‘jungle raj’ in the state, which is due for elections early next year.
Union minister Mahesh Sharma of the BJP said, “When will this end? It shows the state government has collapsed on every front. It cannot save the honour of a daughter.”
A police officer said the attackers disappeared into dark on foot and hid the car under blades of jowar (sorghum) so it couldn’t be seen by police patrol vans. The victims spotted one patrol car at around 3am but could do nothing about it, he said.
The 300-strong police team — drawn from Ghaziabad, Noida, Hapur and Meerut — is experienced in dealing with nomadic criminals, sources said.
In their statement, the victims, who were on way to Shahjahanpur for a relative’s tehravi (a religious ceremony held on the 13th day for the dead) when they were attacked, said the criminals were dressed in half-sleeved T-shirts and jeans and trousers, which they had folded to avoid the muck in the fields.
A case of rape, illegal confinement, robbery and dacoity, and under the provisions of the prevention of children from sexual offences act, has been registered.