India’s federal home minister has ordered an investigation into the gruesome death of Anjali Singh, a 20-year-old Delhi woman dragged under a drunk driver’s car for more than an hour following a hit and run in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
The event manager was returning home on her scooter on the early morning of 1 January when she was hit by the car and dragged more than 13km (8 miles) from the capital’s Sultanpuri area to the Kanjhawala neighbourhood before one of the occupants of the vehicle noticed her.
Five men in the car, including a politician from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were arrested.
The horrific incident has triggered outrage in India, raising fresh questions over the safety of women as well as the police response after witnesses reported making multiple emergency calls.
Senior police official Sagar Preet Hooda said the five accused have been charged with culpable homicide and causing death by negligence.
The men confessed they were drunk following new year’s celebration and said they could not hear the woman’s screams as loud music was playing in the car.
Several CCTV clips show Ms Singh being dragged underneath the car, which was driving at a slow pace.
Witness Deepak Dahiya, a resident who saw the car dragging her body at 3.22am, said he made 18-20 calls to a police helpline and saw at least two police patrol cars pass through the area, according to the Hindustan Times.
Mr Dahiya, who was working at his dairy shop, said: “I heard a car’s noise, and initially it sounded like its tyre had burst, but it was still being driven. It was going at the speed of barely 20km per hour, so I could clearly see what was happening. That’s when I saw the body of a girl beneath the car – between the two left side tyres.”
Mr Dahiya said he started following the car on his own vehicle. “It’s difficult to believe that they didn’t know there was something beneath their car. Meanwhile, I was giving almost minute by minute updates to the police. I would have called them 18-20 times in the next 45 minutes, of which one call lasted more than 10 minutes,” he said.
Ms Singh’s grieving family and local residents protested outside the Sultanpuri police station on Monday.
Her family believe she was raped by the suspects but a post-mortem ruled out sexual assault and said Ms Singh died of “shock and haemorrhage due to antemortem injury to head, spine, left femur, both lower limbs”.
Her mother, Rekha Singh, told TheIndian Express, that her daughter was the sole breadwinner of the family after the death of her father. She said she was left horrified after seeing the condition of her daughter’s body in the mortuary.
“I had a beautiful daughter. I can’t explain what I saw in the mortuary. How can those five men leave her like that? I still believe she was raped,” she told the newspaper.
Delhi’s lieutenant governor VK Saxena said he was shocked by the “monstrous insensitivity of the perpetrators” and he his head “hangs in shame over the inhuman crime”, adding that he is overseeing the investigation.