India detains key suspect over student’s brutal rape, murder

The attack on the 30-year-old law student from the lowest Dalit caste in April was so vicious that it drew comparisons to the fatal gang-rape of a Delhi student on a bus in 2012.

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New Delhi // The main suspect in the brutal rape and murder of a student in Kerala has been held, the state’s top official said on Thursday, following accusations that authorities mishandled the case.

Police have said the attack on the 30-year-old law student from the lowest Dalit caste in April was so vicious she was found lying dead in a pool of blood, her intestines hanging out.

Protesters have held rallies in Kerala demanding justice for the victim, whose case echoed the gang-rape of a Delhi woman in 2012 that sparked mass street demonstrations.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said investigators had tracked down and detained a 23-year-old labourer reportedly from India’s remote north-eastern state of Assam.

“[The] investigation team has received full information about the accused. From yesterday onwards, the accused was under police radar,” Mr Vijayan said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Local media reports cited unnamed police sources as saying that the suspect, Amir Ul Islam, was expected to be formally arrested later in the day.

Federal women and children’s minister Maneka Gandhi last month accused police of mismanaging the investigation, saying an independent probe had found glaring missteps by police and forensic experts.

Mrs Gandhi made the comments ahead of elections in Kerala where her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules at the national level, failed to win power.

Police had detained three other suspects for questioning in May but none was formally arrested.

The attack drew comparisons with the fatal gang-rape of a student in 2012, which highlighted the frightening levels of sexual violence against women in India.

It led to an overhaul of the country’s rape laws, including the speeding up of trials and tougher penalties for offenders. However, high numbers of assaults still persist.

The most recent official figures show that 36,735 rapes were reported across the country in 2014. Activists say the true number is likely much higher, with many such crimes going unreported due to the social stigma they attract.

* Agence France-Presse