Four people in India have been arrested after a 14-year-old girl and her mother were thrown off a moving bus trying to escape a sexual assault, Indian media outlets reported, in an attack that prompted comparisons to the 2012 New Delhi gang rape that drew international condemnation.
The teen, her 36-year-old mother and her 10-year-old brother, were heading to a Sikh temple on Wednesday evening when the incident occurred in the north Indian state of Punjab, Indian TV channel NDTV reported.
While they were riding the bus, which had very few passengers at the time, the assistant conductor began to sexually assault the mother, the Times of India newspaper reported. The woman reportedly complained to the bus conductor and asked him to stop the bus, but he refused her plea and continued driving, the paper reported.
After the woman and her daughter were forced off the moving bus, leaving the 10-year-old boy behind, bystanders took the pair to the hospital, where the teen was declared dead.
"No one helped," the mother told NDTV, adding that she asked the conductor for help to no avail. "They first pushed my daughter off the bus, then me."
The four individuals arrested included the bus driver, the conductor, a cleaner and their friend, NDTV reported.
"I am aggrieved over this incident,” said Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose family co-owns the bus company that operated the vehicle on which the incident occurred. “It is unfortunate that bus belongs to us. Whatever happened is not good.”
The incident, in Punjab’s Moga district, drew parallels to the 2012 New Delhi gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus. The victim died of her injuries two weeks after the brutal attack. Four men were convicted in the attack and sentenced to death, and the case resulted in new laws that doubled prison terms for rape.
"Moga is Punjab's Nirbhaya,” said MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, using the name by which the victim of the New Delhi gang rape has become known.
Bittu, a member of the opposition Congress Party, has demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident and called for the transport company to be suspended, just as the ride-sharing service Uber was suspended in Delhi following rape allegations against one of its drivers in December, the Press Trust of India reported.
Officials in Delhi have publicly tried to improve of the image of safety for women, mostly recently with the appointment of the first female to driver in Delhi’s bus transport system.