NEW DELHI (AFP, REUTERS) - Indian police yesterday said 17 men have been arrested for allegedly raping an 11-year-old girl over several weeks, in the country's latest horrific sexual assault case.
The girl, who has a hearing disability, was allegedly sexually assaulted inside a largely unoccupied 300-unit block in the southern city of Chennai.
Among those arrested were the apartment block's security guards, plumber and lift operator, state police said. The 66-year-old lift operator was the first to attack the girl after she returned from school and was cycling around the complex.
He allegedly invited other men who filmed each other raping the child. As the ordeal progressed she was sedated with injections and drug-laced soft drinks, reports said.
"This is the initial stage of investigation and we have to go in-depth to ascertain the details," a local police official said.
According to local reports, the accused took the girl to various places in the complex, including the basement, terrace, gym and public restrooms, to rape her.
The men would sometimes tie a belt around the girl's neck and cover her eyes before raping her, the police said.
Local media reports said they had threatened her with knives, and told her they would release videos of the assault if she told anyone.
But on Saturday, the victim told her elder sister who was visiting from Delhi, prompting the family to file a complaint, the Times of India said. The girl is now receiving medical attention.
Police arrested the men on Monday on charges of rape, attempted murder and criminal intimidation.
The alleged rapists range in age from 23 to 66.
Television showed images of lawyers beating up the suspects on the staircase of the city high court as they were brought in. One cowered in a corner, trying to protect himself from the blows, while passers-by took pictures on their mobile phones.
India has a grim record of sexual violence. On average, over a hundred cases of women being raped were reported every day in India in 2016, according to the most recent figures made available by the national crime records bureau.
Some 19,000 attacks on minors were reported in 2016, but vast numbers are never brought to police attention. Around six of those were girls below the age of 12.
A day earlier, reports had emerged of a six-year-old being raped outside a temple in New Delhi.
She had been living with her father, a rickshaw-puller, and stepmother on the streets by the temple.
She was discovered bleeding in the street after being kidnapped and raped, and is now in hospital for extensive surgery to repair damage to her internal organs.
In January, India was rocked by a particularly shocking attack when an eight-year-old girl died after being kidnapped, drugged and gangraped for days at a Hindu temple.
This led to the introduction of the death sentence for the rape of girls under the age of 12.