Police officers suspended over handling of India gang-rape case
Under fire for its handling of an investigation into the gang-rape, murder and cremation of a teenager from the disadvantaged Dalit caste, authorities in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Friday announced the suspension of five senior police officers. The case has sparked protests across India with critics accusing the police of harassing the victim’s family.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath late Friday announced the suspension of the police chief of Hathras district, where the crime occurred, and four other officers.
Adityanath, a controversial far-right Hindu politician, monk and close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced that the victim’s family, the accused and the suspended policemen would all undergo lie-detector and drug tests.
Protests erupted across India this week demanding justice for the 19-year-old woman who was allegedly gang-raped last month and later died in a hospital in the latest brutal sexual violence against women to rile India.
The case has also sparked anger over police discrimination when video clips, shot by local journalists, showed Uttar Pradesh police officers cremating the woman’s body in the middle of the night — reportedly with the help of some petrol — against the wishes of her family and religious custom. Under Hinduism, cremations are never done at night.
A senior policeman on Thursday sparked further outrage after claiming that a foresic report and an autopsy had shown that the woman had not been raped.
This contradicts statements from the victim and her mother and reported hospital findings, while experts said the forensic test was carried out too long after the attack.
The woman’s family told local media that they found her naked, bleeding and paralysed with a split tongue and a broken spine in a field outside their home, and that she had identified her assailants. She died two weeks later, on Tuesday, after battling serious injuries in a hospital in the capital, New Delhi.
Dalits — formerly known as “untouchables” and at the bottom of India’s unforgiving Hindu caste hierarchy — are victims of thousands of attacks each year. According to human rights organisations, Dalit women are particularly vulnerable to caste-based discrimination and sexual violence.
Police barricade victim’s village, block opposition leaders
Hundreds of police have also barricaded the village, preventing the woman’s family from leaving and journalists and opposition politicians from talking to them.
The family’s mobile phones have also reportedly been seized.
The victim’s brother told one Indian news channel that the family were scared for their lives. The local high court has ordered authorities to provide the family protection.
Police on Thursday detained key leaders of the opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi, after preventing them from visiting the victim’s village.
Police officer Manoj Dixit said the two party leaders were detained for violating an order banning the assembly of four or more people in the area to prevent any violence by protesters.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning
Police stopped their convoy on a highway on the way to the village, where the party leaders planned to meet with the woman’s family. They got out of their car and started walking to the village, but were blocked again by the police.
The Congress leaders were driven back to New Delhi and later released.
The young woman’s death comes months after four men were hanged for the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi, in a case that came to symbolise India’s epidemic of sexual violence.
An average of 87 rapes were reported in India every day last year, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau, but large numbers are thought to go unreported.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)