Updated Monday, January 14, 2013 at 06:29 AM
NEW DELHI — Police in the northern Indian state of Punjab said Sunday that they have arrested seven men accused of the gang rape of a 29-year-old woman who was traveling alone on a bus, less than four weeks after the brutal rape and killing of a woman on a New Delhi bus created a national outcry about the safety of women in public places.
In the latest incident, police said a woman was taking a bus home to her village at around 5 p.m. Friday. She was the lone passenger on the bus for about 30 minutes. Police said the bus driver did not heed her request to stop at her village and instead stopped at a desolate site farther away.
"When the woman got down from the bus, she was carried away by the bus driver and conductor on a motorcycle to another spot and were joined by five other men," said Raj Jeet Singh, the senior superintendent of police in Gurdaspur in Punjab. She was dropped off the next morning near her village. "She came with her family to report rape on Saturday."
Friday's attack bore similarities to the high-profile case of a 23-year-old woman who was gang-raped and beaten inside a moving bus last month in New Delhi, and thrown out onto the street to die, along with a male friend who had tried to protect her. Jyoti Singh died of her injuries two weeks later at a Singapore hospital.
Her case sparked unprecedented protests against rape across India and galvanized the media and police to focus on the rising incidents of rape and sexual harassment in the country. Sexual assaults have made headline news here almost daily since then, a marked change from the time when such cases were mentioned only briefly in the inside pages of newspapers and were rarely reported on television.
"The increased media reporting and the protests have created an awakening among women, and they are now coming forward like never before to report rape and want to fight for justice," said Hardeep Dhillon, a senior police spokesman. "This has also made our police force more sensitive to these cases. Now they file the complaint immediately and believe the victim's statement without questioning."