Police in India have made a second arrest after the alleged rape of a teenager by a ruling party politician sparked protests across the country, according to federal investigators.
The case, along with the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl, has brought Indians on to the streets for mass demonstrations not seen since the rape and murder of a student in Delhi in 2012.
The outrage has put pressure on the prime minister, Narendra Modi, whose ruling Bharatiya Janata party is accused of trying to shield a state MP in one case and of defending the accused in the other.
India’s central bureau of investigation (CBI) has arrested Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh state, which is ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP, for allegedly raping the 17-year-old. An aide to the MP was arrested on Saturday.
Police brought a case against the politician last week only after the claimant attempted to burn herself alive outside the state leader’s residence. The next day, her father, who had been in police custody, died from injuries he sustained in an alleged beating.
“We arrested the second person, a woman named Shashi Singh, in our ongoing investigations of the case on Saturday,” a CBI spokesman said.
The girl’s family – who fought unsuccessfully for nearly a year to get the police to register their case – said Singh had taken their daughter to the state legislator on the pretext of a job. Singh then stood guard at the door while Sengar raped the girl, alleged the teenager’s family in the initial complaint to police.
Public outrage escalated as details surrounding the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in January in Jammu and Kashmir state made national headlines.
The girl was kidnapped, drugged and repeatedly raped over five days – including inside a Hindu temple – before being strangled and beaten with a rock.
Jammu and Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state, but the Jammu region in the south is Hindu-dominated. The case has heightened fears of communal tensions in the area.
Eight people have been arrested over the killing, including four police officers and a minor. All are Hindus.
Two state ministers from Modi’s BJP – Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga – resigned after attending a rally by local Hindu groups held in defence of the accused.
Scenes last week of lawyers trying to stop police from entering court to file charges against the accused sparked nationwide revulsion. The supreme court on Friday warned lawyers in Jammu against any further attempts to obstruct justice.
“They have resigned because of the way the entire thing has been presented across the country. They have been victimised,” Balbir Singh, a spokesman for Choudhary Lal Singh, told AFP.
Modi on Friday promised justice for the victims as anger mounted, while India’s women’s minister called for the death penalty for child rapists.