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Dalit woman dies after gang-rape

AHMEDABAD: A member of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) places a candle besides placards after a candlelight vigil on Wednesday following accusations of Indian police forcibly cremating the body of a 19-year-old woman who was allegedly gang-raped by four men in Uttar Pradesh. – AFP

NEW DELHI: A woman from India’s marginalized Dalit community has died after being gang-raped, police said yesterday, days after the death of a teenager from the same low-caste group at the hands of a group of high-caste men sparked outrage. The 22-year-old, a member of India’s “untouchable” Dalit community, was allegedly raped by two men on Tuesday and died while being taken to hospital, police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh said.

The latest assaults come months after four men were hanged for the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi, a case that came to symbolize the nation’s problems with sexual violence. Police said that two men in the latest case had been arrested on charges of gang-rape and murder, without giving further details on their identities. An investigation was under way and the suspects may be tried in a special fast-track court, they added.

“A rickshaw-wallah (driver) brought her home. (She) was thrown in front of our house. My child could barely stand or speak,” the NDTV news channel quoted her mother as saying. The incident took place in Balrampur district in Uttar Pradesh state, around 500 km from where the other Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped in mid-September by four upper-caste men.

The 19-year-old, who was left paralyzed by her injuries, was rushed to hospital in New Delhi 200 kilometers away but died on Tuesday. Her death sparked protests in Delhi and in cities in Uttar Pradesh. India’s 200 million Dalits have long faced discrimination and abuse, and campaigners say attacks have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

India is the one of the world’s most dangerous countries for women, with a rape occurring every 15 minutes, according to federal data – figures that rights groups say vastly underestimate the scale of the problem. An average of 87 rape cases were reported every day last year, according to the latest data released Tuesday by the National Crime Records Bureau, but large numbers are thought to go unreported. The bureau reported an increase of more than seven percent in the number of crimes against women in 2019 compared to the previous year.

Meanwhile, Indian police imposed emergency laws yesterday in a village where a woman from the lowest rung of the country’s caste system was allegedly raped and killed, barring gatherings of more than five people after clashes erupted following her cremation. The 19-year-old victim died from her injuries on Tuesday, having been attacked and gang-raped on Sept 14 in a field near her home in Hathras district, 100 km from Delhi, authorities said. Police have arrested four men in connection with the crime.

Clashes between protesters and police erupted in the district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday after police cremated the woman’s body. The victim’s brother told Reuters the cremation was carried out against the wishes of her family, who had wanted to perform their own funeral rites. Local officials deny this. Twenty-five people were arrested in connection with the unrest, according to a police information report. An eye-witness told Reuters police had wielded batons during the clashes.

This latest case has caused widespread outrage and protests across India due to the backgrounds of those involved. While the victim came the Dalit community – who face frequent discrimination and violence – the four men arrested were all from a higher caste, her brother told Reuters. The victim and her brother are not being identified due to laws against naming victims of sexual violence.

Orders preventing the gathering of more than 5 people have been imposed in Hathras, Vikrant Vir, the top police official in the district, told Reuters yesterday. Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, leaders of the opposition Congress Party, along with Chandra Shekhar Aazad, a popular Dalit politician who founded the Bhim Army to campaign for the rights of the community, all planned to visit the district yesterday, according to media reports.

Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, ranks as one of the most unsafe states for women in the country. Under the emergency laws, police will stop members of political organizations from entering Hathras, Vir said. – Agencies

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