CHENNAI (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - A well-known actress in the southern Indian state of Kerala was allegedly abducted and raped, sparking outrage among activists who say the case highlights the dangers faced by all women in India and a lack of justice for victims of sexual violence.
In a statement to the police, the actress said she was abducted by a group of men who drove her around in a car for two hours on Friday night (Feb 17) and sexually assaulted and threatened her.
She had been picked up from her home by a car sent by a production house to take her to the studio for dubbing when she was attacked, police said.
"The car she was travelling in was hit by a van from behind in a pre-planned accident," police spokesman P.S. Rajasekharan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The victim is not named as it is a rape case.
"The men then entered her car and drove away, dropping her off on the outskirts of Kochi after a couple of hours."
The actress said that during the assault, they took pictures of her and filmed her, threatening her with blackmail, he added.
On Monday, Kerala police arrested two men, including the driver of her car, whom investigators said was part of the plot to blackmail the actress.
The main accused, the victim's former driver, is still at large, police said, adding that they suspected the involvement of at least seven people in the crime.
A case of kidnapping, rape and criminal conspiracy has been registered by the police.
Violence against women in India has been under the spotlight since the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012. Friday's attack again underlined the vulnerability of women, campaigners say.
India toughened its anti-rape laws in response to the outcry over the New Delhi attack, but rape, acid attacks and domestic violence are common.
According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, 327,394 crimes against women were reported to the police in 2015, including rapes, kidnappings, sexual harassment, trafficking, molestation and cruelty by husbands and relatives.
The film fraternity rallied around the actress, staging a protest in the port city of Kochi on Sunday evening.
Describing it as a "heinous crime", Association of Malayalam Movie Artists president and parliamentarian Innocent, who goes by just his first name, called for a swift investigation.
In a social media post, actor Mohanlal Viswanathan Nair, popularly known as just Mohanlal, said: "It's time we stop being candle holding and candle lighting sympathisers and ensure that the law of the land be strengthened in such ways that nobody even dares contemplating such acts leave alone commit them."