| Pradeep Kumar, the second person from Bihar accused in the Delhi child rape case. Pictures by PTI and Niranjan Kumar
Patna/New Delhi, April 22: A second suspect in the sexual abuse of the five-year-old Delhi girl has been picked up from Bihar, from where prime accused Manoj Kumar Sah also hails, escalating the atrocity into possible gang rape.
The arrest of 20-year-old Pradeep Kumar from Lakhisarai, over 200km from Manoj’s village in Muzaffarpur, came as the child’s condition improved but protests intensified against the assault and an alleged bribe-laced police cover-up bid.
The demonstrations, along with calls for Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar’s resignation, forced the closure of some Metro stations near India Gate, Parliament and the Prime Minister’s residence over fears of a December-style backlash in the aftermath of the bus gang rape and murder.
Doctors treating the child said she was out of danger, had started taking liquids and semi-solid food and her wounds had begun to heal.
In Bihar, Pradeep was picked up late last night from his maternal uncle Hareram’s home in Lakhisarai, 100km southeast of Patna, where he was hiding, additional director-general of police Ravinder Kumar said.
Kumar described both the accused persons as perverted. “It is high time the society starts thinking about it,” he said, and asked the investigating officials to collect as much scientific evidence as they could against rape accused so that they could be prosecuted successfully during trial.
Delhi police sources indicated Manoj, the 22-year-old prime accused and a friend of Pradeep, had lured the girl, a neighbour at their east Delhi Gandhi Nagar locality, last week with chocolates. But Manoj has in his statement denied sexual assault and sought to pin the blame on Pradeep, claiming he had only “watched” Pradeep brutalise her.
Manoj also said it was Pradeep’s idea to bring the child to the room where the kid was left for dead after the abuse, the sources said, adding the duo drank alcohol and watched a porn film on Pradeep’s cellphone before the crime.
The sources said the true sequence of events would be clear only when they brought the two men face to face and quizzed them together.
As news about Pradeep’s arrest spread in Lakhisarai town, student activists and local residents thronged the court premises and demanded that the accused be handed over to them. Some people gathered near his house in Sheikhpura, 35km southeast of Lakhisarai, and hurled abuse on his elder brother Deepak Kumar, who works in a grocery shop there.
Residents said Pradeep had gone to Delhi last February with his mother Mina Devi. They claimed that Pradeep had criminal antecedents.
“Pradeep was arrested by the Patna police in connection with a theft case when he worked as a daily wage earner at a restaurant there,” said Anil Yadav, a neighbour.
The residents said Pradeep seems to share his accomplice’s shady past, having been beaten several times for teasing girls in his village.
Manoj, it is learnt, was forced by village elders to marry his now 18-year-old wife, Archana, after he allegedly raped her over a year ago. But this has not been confirmed, the sources said, adding that no rape case has been filed in Muzaffarpur.
As the investigators grilled Manoj, Delhi police chief Kumar, under fire over the cover-up bid and the delayed probe, rejected demands for his resignation and appeared to suggest the police alone couldn’t tackle such crimes.
“If my resignation can stop depravity like rapes, then I can resign a thousand times…it is case of mental depravity and that will not be solved by anyone resigning, least of all the leader of the police force,” Kumar said.