University students shout slogans as they form a human chain advocating safety for women in New Delhi. Photo: AP

Delhi gang-rape victim’s boyfriend speaks out

The boyfriend of a young Indian student whose gang-rape and murder sparked nationwide fury has recounted the savagery inflicted on her and his own trauma over his failed efforts to fend off the rapists.

The 28-year-old man, who suffered a fractured leg and other injuries in the December 16 attack, also deplored the apathy of police and passers-by who did little to help the unclothed victim at the end of their nearly hour-long ordeal.

The horrifying crime has appalled India and brought simmering anger about widespread crime against women to the boil amid angry calls for safer streets, more sensitive policing and changed social attitudes.

On Saturday, a Delhi district court is expected to start the process of bringing the five adult suspects to trial, where they could face the death penalty if convicted. A sixth suspect is a minor believed to be aged 17.

“What can I say? The cruelty I saw should not be seen ever,” said the boyfriend, who is currently with his family in rural northern India where he is taking time out from his job at a software firm in New Delhi.

“I tried to fight against the men but later I begged them again and again to leave her,” the boyfriend said in an interview by phone on Friday from Gorakhpur, a town in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

The couple had been out to watch a movie that night and decided to get into a private bus when several rickshaws had refused to drive them back to the victim’s home in a New Delhi suburb.

Once in the bus, he was attacked and his 23-year-old girlfriend was gang-raped by a group of allegedly drunk men, including the driver, who also violated her with an iron bar causing immense internal damage that would lead to her death last weekend.

The boyfriend, who asked not to be named, also recounted how passersby had failed to come to their rescue after they were thrown out of the moving vehicle at the end of the brutal ordeal.

He was critical of police for failing to be sensitive to his and his girlfriend’s mental condition and also raised questions about the emergency care given in the public hospital where she was admitted.

“A passerby found us (after the attack), but he did not even give my friend his jacket. We waited for the police to come and save us,” he said.

Later Friday, he appeared for the first time in public since the attack, giving an anguished interview to Hindi-language Indian cable channel Zee News.

The police arrested six suspects soon after the crime and formally charged them with murder, rape and kidnapping in a city court on Thursday.

This court is to hold another hearing on Saturday and is expected to transfer the case to a special “fast-track” court set up amid a public outcry and demands from demonstrators and the victim’s family for the culprits to be hanged.

“I was not very confident about getting into the bus but my friend was running late, so we got into it. This was the biggest mistake I made and after that everything went out of control.”

The driver of the bus allegedly then made lewd remarks and his accomplices joined him “to taunt” the couple.

The boyfriend told the driver to stop the bus, but by then his accomplices had locked the two doors.

“They hit me with a small stick and dragged my friend to a seat near the driver’s cabin.”

After that the “driver and the other men raped my friend and hit her in the worst possible ways in the most private parts of her body.”

“I cannot tell you what I feel when I think of it. I shiver in pain,” he said.

He said the police who came to their rescue took his girlfriend to a government hospital, but failed to take into account his injuries and mental trauma.

“I was treated like an object by the police. ... They wanted all the help to solve the case even before getting me the right treatment. Nobody witnessed the trauma I suffered,” he said.

He said he was also “not satisfied by the treatment provided to the victim by the doctors” at the Safdarjung Hospital, a government-run institution.

His girlfriend died on December 29 in a specialist hospital in Singapore after a 13-day struggle to survive injuries so grievous that her intestines had to be removed.

She underwent three major surgeries and suffered a cardiac arrest in India before being flown to Singapore for treatment.

Two doctors from a top private hospital who were part of the team who monitored her condition in India denied that the public hospital had failed in its duty to the victims.

“Anywhere in the world the prognosis was not very good to start with,” said Yatin Mehta, a highly experienced critical care specialist at the private Medanta hospital.

“The Safdarjung doctors did a pretty commendable job,” he added, echoing comments from cardiac surgeon Naresh Trihan, who was also involved in later efforts to save the woman.