MOGA/CHANDIGARH -- The death of a 13-year-old Dalit girl on Thursday after she and her mother were allegedly pushed out of a speeding bus for protesting against their molestation sparked outrage in Punjab, with the opposition demanding action against the ruling Badal family which owned the bus.
Police said that four people, including the bus driver, conductor and helper, were arrested on Thursday, and they have been charged with murder, attempt to murder and molestation.
The incident took place on Wednesday evening near Moga town, 180 km from Chandigarh. The bus belongs to Orbit Aviation Company which is owned by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the Home Ministry portfolio. Badal is also the president of the ruling Akali Dal, and his wife is Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
The victim, Arshdeep Kaur, was declared dead by doctors at the Moga civil hospital while her mother, Shinder Kaur, was admitted in a serious condition.
Shinder Kaur, 36, told the media from her hospital bed that they complained about the molestation to the bus driver but he mocked at them and started speeding the vehicle. The mother said that no one helped them inside the bus and she that they were pushed out of the moving bus by the molesters.
The family of three, including a 14-year-old boy, had boarded the bus at Moga town for Baghapurana town, 20 km away, on Wednesday evening. The mother and daughter were soon targeted with indecent gestures and molestation.
Punjab Director General of Police Sumedh Singh Saini said a probe into the incident will be conducted by Inspector General of Police Gurpreet Kaur Deo.
The case was registered against bus conductor Sukhwinder Singh and his helper Gurdeep Singh. Two others arrested include driver Ranjit Singh and another person, Amarjit Singh.
Embarrassed by the involvement a bus owned by his son, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said he was "deeply pained" by the incident.
"I don't know anything about the bus company. I have nothing to do with it. I have never been to its office," Badal told the media in Chandigarh. He admitted that Sukhbir Badal owned the Orbit Bus company.
"Strict action will be taken under law against the guilty. The incident is deeply shocking and I am deeply pained by it," Badal said.
In New Delhi, the Lok Sabha was disrupted when the Congress Party and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members sought a discussion on the death of the teenaged girl.
Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu and AAP's Bhagwant Mann and Dharamvir Gandhi raised the issue but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed a discussion saying they can raise it only during zero hour.
Furious, the rebuffed MPs trooped near the speaker's podium and started shouting slogans demanding an immediate discussion.
The speaker, however, asked them to return to their seats and adjourned the house briefly.
Congress leader Amarinder Singh, a former Punjab chief minister, said the incident was a reflection of the lawlessness under the Badal regime.
"I am shocked and ashamed such an incident has happened in Punjab and nobody came to the rescue of the helpless mother and the daughter leading to the death of the girl," he said in a statement.
Citing the deteriorating law and order situation, Congress legislators demanded President's Rule in Punjab.
"The bus belongs to a company owned by the Badal family. The Dalit girl was molested by the staff of the Orbit bus. She along with her mother was thrown out of the fast-moving bus by the molesters," they said in a statement.
Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa claimed that Orbit transport buses had unleashed terror on the state's roads and its staff was violating all laws.
"Sukhbir Badal is directly responsible for this incident and a case under Section 304-A should be registered against him as the bus is his liability," Bajwa said in Moga.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been running an alliance government with the Akali Dal since 2007, was guarded in its comments on the incident.
Condemning the incident, Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma, in a statement, said that the incident was "shameful and very sad" and had brought disrepute to the Punjabi community worldwide.
Sharma steered clear of making any reference to the bus being owned by the Badal family.