VASCO DA GAMA, India — Thousands protested in the resort state of Goa after the rape of a seven-year-old girl in a school toilet sparked fresh outrage in India on Tuesday, following a deadly gang rape on a bus.
Crowds began gathering outside the Deepvihar High School in the city of Vasco da Gama on Monday night after news of the attack emerged, prompting police to arrest the headmistress on charges of negligence and appeal for calm.
A massive hunt has been launched for the attacker, thought to be in his early 20s, who managed to get into the premises despite guards posted at the gate.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the youngster was raped after being dragged inside the toilet next to the headmistress’ office during a break in classes.
Police were alerted after the girl complained of pain and was given a medical examination.
She was taken to hospital and has since been discharged, a charity worker accompanying her told AFP, adding she was recuperating at home.
Thousands of people surrounded the school on Monday night, shouting demands for the arrest of the headmistress and the perpetrator.
Demonstrations spread to other parts of the city on Tuesday, with shops and businesses closing in protest
Goa’s Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar visited the scene to try and calm the tense gathering.
“We will not spare the accused and anyone involved in this crime,” he told the crowds, after which the headmistress was detained. She was later arrested for negligence of duty, the police official said.
The case has been transferred from local police to the state crime branch, which has asked a teacher to help draw a sketch of the accused, seen loitering in the school compound.
Deputy Inspector General of Goa Police O.P. Mishra told reporters a special investigation team was working on the “very sensitive case”, while neighbouring state forces had been alerted about the suspect.
The attack comes after the gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi last month sparked nationwide protests and fuelled nationwide anger over the alarming incidence of sexual assault.
Five men and a teenager have been charged with the rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman, who died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital from horrific injuries.
Police say the suspects lured the woman and her male companion onto a private bus in the capital when the pair were returning home from the cinema.
The group allegedly beat the man and raped the young woman in the back of the bus while driving around the city for about 45 minutes.
They also sexually assaulted the woman with a metal bar, leaving her with severe intestinal injuries, before throwing her out of the vehicle.
Protesters across the country have called for tougher laws to punish rapists, including the introduction of capital punishment in the most extreme cases.
In a separate case, a New Delhi court on Tuesday sentenced a 60-year-old man to death for sexually assaulting and killing a three-year-old in the capital’s southwest in 2011.
The accused, who goes by the single name of Bharat, was a private security guard, lawyers present at the trial told AFP.