The case of sexual abuse of a six year old in Bangalore took on national political overtones on Monday as students from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party accused a state government run by the country's main opposition of inaction.
Hundreds of students from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) youth wing protested in India's IT capital of Bangalore after a school coach was detained over an alleged attack on a 6-year-old girl that had prompted protests by parents for several days.
Once a taboo topic in India, sex crimes have become front-page news following a series of brutal rapes and murders. They have also become political minefields after the former national government led by the Congress party seemed slow to react to a surge of public anger after a 2012 gang rape in Delhi.
About 300 BJP student activists waved flags, shouted slogans and tried to break through metal police barricades outside the Bangalore school where the roller skating coach was suspected of assaulting the girl. The coach has not been charged. "The school administration has been avoiding all our questions and is not ready to accept any responsibility... they are unwilling to take any action themselves or conduct an internal investigation," said student leader Nithin Gowda.
Police official Sharat Chandra said the protesters demanded the school's chairman be arrested and action be against any suspected assailants.
MARCH AGAINST MINISTER
Another group of BJP students tried to march to the house of Siddaramaiah, chief minister of Karnataka state where Bangalore is the capital, to demand the resignation of his home minister. Both are from the Congress party.
About 150 protesters there were taken into brief preventive custody, police official Kamal Pant said. The head of the student group, P. Muniraju, said 300 were detained. "The state government has failed in all aspects and in security," said Muniraju, adding his group was demanding "strict action" against the school authorities. The girl's mother lodged a complaint with police last week, saying her daughter was assaulted in the school on July 2. This sparked protests from parents demanding accountability.
Police said the girl was sexually assaulted but not raped. On Sunday, they said they had detained the roller skating coach as a suspect but he has not been charged so far. Police officials are currently reviewing footage from two dozen cameras in the school for any clues, they added.
Public outrage at sex crimes is a test for Modi's new coalition, which trounced an electoral alliance led by Congress candidate Rahul Gandhi in a general election last May.
A string of shocking assaults including a wave of hangings in northern India have been reported in recent months despite tougher new laws meant to deter attacks against women.
Amnesty International India said in a statement that the case highlighted the need for policies to prevent violence against children in schools. "Authorities have not developed clear guidelines for schools on identification of abuse, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow up, and appropriate judicial involvement," said Tara Rao, director of human rights education.
(Reporting By Aby Jose Koilparambil, Shashank KS, Abhiram Nandakumar, Roshni Menon; Writing by Sruthi Gottipati; Editing by Tom Heneghan)