After getting into an argument with the woman’s male companion, the group are then alleged to have lashed out at the pair before taking turns to rape the woman in the back of the bus while driving around Delhi for some 45 minutes.

They also sexually assaulted the woman with a rusting metal bar, leaving her with severe intestinal injuries, before hurling her out of the vehicle.

The bus would have had to cross numerous police checkpoints at that time of night but at no stage was the vehicle pulled over by officers.

After news of the attack emerged, small-scale protests quickly swelled and were then repeated across the country – fuelled in part by anger at the police’s use of teargas and water cannon.

The Indian government has set up a commission of inquiry to investigate what mistakes were made on the night of the attack and in its aftermath.

But in an address to chief ministers from the country’s states who gathered in New Delhi on Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged that it was far from an isolated event.

“We must reflect on this problem, which occurs in all states and regions.

It requires greater attention by the central government and states,” he said.

Gang-rapes happen on such a regular basis that they are rarely reported in the Indian press although the attack in Delhi has led papers to shine a rare spotlight on such attacks.

On Thursday night, it emerged that a 17-year-old girl had committed suicide after police allegedly tried to persuade her to drop a complaint of gang-rape and instead either accept a cash settlement or even marry one of her attackers.

After quoting from the infamous gang-rape scene in Burgess’s novel, a columnist for The Hindu wrote this week that “few Indians will need a dictionary of the teenage slang Burgess invented to grasp the horror of this passage”.

“For progress to be made, we must begin by acknowledging this one fact: the problem isn’t the police, the courts or the government. The problem is us,” wrote Praveen Swami.

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