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AFP
October 1, 2020

Anger after Indian police cremate gang-rape victim

World

AFP
October 1, 2020

Bool Gahri, India: Indian police were accused Wednesday of cremating the body a teenaged “untouchable” Dalit woman against her family’s wishes after she died following an alleged gang-rape by four upper-caste men – the latest sexual assault to shock the country.

The 19-year-old from India’s marginalised Dalit community was left paralysed following a brutal attack two weeks ago in fields outside a village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. She was found lying in a pool of blood after going missing while collect fodder outside her home village of Bool Gahri.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was later taken to hospital in New Delhi, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) away, but died Tuesday from her injuries. The assault comes months after four men were hanged for the brutal 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi, a case that came to symbolise the nation’s problems with sexual violence.

The latest attack sparked anger that was further fuelled Wednesday after the woman’s family accused police of cremating her body in the dead of night – against their wishes and religious custom – raising doubts about their commitment to a proper investigation.

“I wasn’t even allowed to see the body of my daughter one final time before they burned it,” her mother told reporters Wednesday. Four men have been arrested in connection with the attack – all aged in their 20s and 30s – with an Indian newspaper reporting one was from a wealthy landowning family feared by the community.

He “creates trouble but no one ever says anything,” the Indian Express quoted a villager as saying. “He drinks, harasses women. Everyone is scared of the family.”

Police chief Vikrant Vir insisted the woman’s cremation took place with the family’s consent, but added: “We did not want any outsider to create law and order disturbances.” The All India Progressive Women’s Association said the police action “reeks of caste supremacy”. India’s 200 million “untouchable” Dalits have long faced discrimination and abuse, and campaigners say attacks on them have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.