NEW DELHI – A North Indian village teenager who was dragged from a camp and raped by a group of men died on Tuesday in a New Delhi hospital, sparking nationwide outrage again after years of what experts describe gang rape as an epidemic in India.
The 19-year-old woman, who Indian law prohibits naming, had been transferred to hospital just a day earlier, two weeks after she was gang raped and mutilated by upper caste men near their village in the Hathras district of the state. of Uttar Pradesh. , his family said.
Hathras police chief Vikrant Vir said four men had been arrested on suspicion of gang rape and murder. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “stricter action”
But justice is unlikely: Of the tens of thousands of rape cases reported in India each year, only a handful of results in criminal proceedings, data from the National Crime Records Bureau show. Activists say the true scale of the problem is far worse, as many cases are never reported due to the stigma of sexual violence in India.
When action is taken against suspects, it is often by vigilantes or by police officers acting out of court, in murders that are usually widely praised but also highlight the inability of the justice system to deal with rampant sexual violence.
The woman was a Dalit, at the lowest rung of the Hindu caste hierarchy of India. On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters from the Bhim Army, a party that defends the rights of the Dalits, crowded the hospital in Delhi where the woman was treated and clashed with the police.
A leader of the Bhim army, Chandrashekhar Azad, urged Dalits from all over India to take to the streets to demand that the attackers be hanged.
The 19-year-old woman was cutting grass to feed the family’s five dairy buffaloes in Hathras when she was taken away by a group of upper caste men on September 14, according to her brother, Satender Kumar.
Her tongue was cut and her spinal cord was broken after she was dragged around her neck with a rope, Mr. Kumar said. He said the arrests came only after days of complaining to the police. Her sister was initially treated in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh before being transferred to New Delhi.
Mr. Adityanath, the Prime Minister of Uttar Pradesh, he said in another tweet that a special investigation team had been set up to handle the case and that a report would be delivered within a week.
After the woman’s death in hospital in New Delhi, her body was returned to Uttar Pradesh, where police seized her body in the early hours of Wednesday and took her to be cremated without her family, ostensibly to try to keep the case quiet, Mr. Kumar said.
“They took the body by force, assaulted family members and cremated my sister on the same night,” he said. “The police did not allow us to get close to the cremation site.”
Hathras police did not immediately comment on the family’s allegations. But the district magistrate, Praveen Kumar Laxkar, told reporters Wednesday that it was not true that family members were not allowed to be cremated.
Dalits are particularly vulnerable to caste-based discrimination and Dalit women are identified for sexual attacks thousands of times a year, according to human rights organizations.
Gruesome tales of rape, often followed by retaliatory violence if the victims or their families speak up, have become painfully familiar in India. Whether a rape complaint overcomes the din to receive a national warning is often determined by class and caste dynamics.
The shocking gang rape of a female student aboard a bus in New Delhi in 2012, which later resulted in her death, galvanized a nationwide protest, with protesters clamoring for reform. But the overload of the country’s judicial system continues to move slowly. Four men convicted in the 2012 case were hanged at the end of 2019, after having exhausted their appeals.
The police killing of four suspects in the alleged gang rape of a 27-year-old vet last year in the southern state of Hyderabad was widely hailed as a quick fix alternative to Indian justice.
Swati Maliwal, head of the Delhi Women’s Commission, went on a hunger strike outside Mahatma Gandhi’s mausoleum in New Delhi last year, calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to force courts to carry out executions of rapists within six months from the sentence.
On Wednesday, Maliwal said in a public statement that the Hathras case had “embarrassed the whole nation” and that she had written to the Chief Justice of the Indian Supreme Court, “asking for justice for the child.”
The teenager’s death this week followed a series of disturbing reports of rape in India as the country struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. In one case, in the southern state of Kerala, an ambulance driver is accused of raping a Covid-19 patient while taking her to hospital. In August, the mutilated body of a 13-year-old was found in a sugar cane field in Uttar Pradesh, near the border with Nepal. In July, a 6-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped in the southern state of Madhya Pradesh. and her eyes were badly injured in an attempt to prevent her from identifying her attackers.
According to the latest data from the Indian government, police recorded 33,658 cases of rape in 2017 – an average of 92 per day and a 35% increase from 2012, when expedited courts for rape cases were introduced. About 10,000 of the reported victims were children.
Hari Kumar reported from New Delhi and Emily Schmall from Chicago.