New Delhi, Sep 15 (EFE).- Two sisters from India’s marginalized Dalit community – formerly known as untouchables – were raped, strangulated and then hung from a tree to make their deaths appear as suicides, the police announced on Thursday, adding that the six accused in the case had been arrested.
The two minor girls were found hanging from a tree in the Lakhimpur Kheri district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
In a video that went viral on social media, the two bodies can be seen hanging from the neck with a traditional red scarf.
The district’s police superintendent Sanjiv Sharma said in a press conference that a friend of the sisters’ had introduced them to three other boys, and all four raped the victims after taking them to a field on motorbikes.
“They forcefully made sexual relations with the girls against their wish,” said the officer, adding that when the girls told the accused that they would now have to marry them – for having compromised their honor – the boys killed them.
“The boys killed them by strangulating with their dupatta (scarf). Then they called two more boys. Then (…) they hanged the girls onto the tree,” he added.
The autopsies have confirmed that the two girls were raped and strangulated.
The discovery of the bodies hanging from a tree triggered massive protests in the area, where family members and locals demanded justice and immediate arrest of the culprits.
Suman said that some of the accused were arrested on Wednesday night, and one of them on Thursday morning after being shot in the leg while trying to flee.
The victims’ family has demanded the death penalty for the culprits.
The crime triggered widespread outrage in the country, including among representative of the Dalit community, which occupies the lowest rung in India’s hierarchical caste system.
Former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and Dalit leader Mayawati said that criminals had become fearless in the state because the government’s priorities were wrong.
Indian authorities have officially withheld the identities of the accused to prevent inter-religion or caste-based clashes.
The case has drawn obvious parallels to another rape-murder in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, in which two Dalit cousins were allegedly hung up after being raped and killed by “upper-caste” neighbors. Although a dubious investigation later ruled out this version of the crime, leading to widespread criticism of the police.
India’s centuries-old caste system divides the society on the basis of birth in four varnas – further divided into hundreds of castes – which decide the respect and resources one enjoys.
The Dalits are considered impure for being destined to carry out the most despised tasks such as cleaning human waste, and the stigma continues to affect their daily lives despite the discrimination being outlawed my modern laws.
As per the 2011 census, they account for over 15 percent of the population.
In 2021, as many 3,889 cases of rape of Dalit women were registered in the country, amounting to more than 10 such assaults every day, according to data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau.
However, organizations such as the Dalit Human Rights Defenders’ Network warn that these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as often the victims are prevented from filing a complaint due to pressures by the higher castes and police inaction. EFE