The 39-year old Swiss woman and her husband were traveling by bicycle Friday to the city of Agra, site of the renowned 17th-century marble mausoleum the Taj Mahal. The couple pitched a tent in a jungle off the highway after sunset to rest during the night. But a group of men circled them, raped the woman, beat the husband with wooden sticks and stole their laptop, cell phone and cash.
Arya said police had recovered the stolen laptop and some cash from the men.
Meanwhile, the state’s home minister Uma Shankar Gupta appeared to shift the blame when he told reporters that foreign tourists must follow rules.
“What happened is unfortunate for our nation,” Gupta said. “When foreign tourists come, they should inform the (superintendent of police) about their plans. This is the system but it is not being followed.”
The attack again highlighted the risk women in the country’s public places.
It also served as a reminder that neither the national outcry against rape since the deadly assault on a student in New Delhi in December nor recent government efforts to impose a tough law against sexual harassment has reduced crimes against women. On the contrary, the capital witnessed 150 rapes in the first 45 days of this year.
Police said the Swiss couple were in an unsafe area when the attack occurred.
“They had veered off the main road after sunset into the jungle and set up a tent to rest during the night,” said R.K. Gurjar, the police station chief in Datia, the small town where the incident occurred. “Nobody goes into these jungles in the night. The cattle herders, wood collectors leave before dark. They were all alone and without help. They could have stayed in the village nearby or taken shelter at a school instead.”
Police said they had detained 20 men for questioning and sent eight to be identified by the couple.
Madhya Pradesh has the highest incidence of rapes in the country, with more than nine reported daily. The state’s home minister, Uma Shankar Gupta, told the state legislative assembly this year that there had been 3,381 rapes in 2011, of which more than 300 were gang rapes.
“At a time when we are trying to promote tourism, especially tiger tourism and sacred Buddhist trails in the state, this kind of horrific crime will scare tourists away,” said Pankaj Chaturvedi, director of Air Aman Travels in Bhopal, the state capital.
Last year, Madhya Pradesh attracted about 650,000 foreign tourists, a figure that tour operators wanted to increase by 20 percent this year, Chaturvedi said.
The incident in Datia occurred a day after another young woman was raped by three men on a bus in the city of Indore, also in Madhya Pradesh.