New Delhi, Sep 30 (efe-epa).- The body of a young woman from the Dalit community – marginalized outcasts of Hindu society – who was allegedly gang raped and killed by upper caste men in northern India, was controversially cremated by the police early Wednesday in a case that has caused nationwide outrage.
The 19-year-old victim had died at Delhi’s Safdarung Hospital on Tuesday morning, two weeks after she was raped and attacked by four men in a village in Hathras district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Footage aired by local news channels on Wednesday showed the body being cremated at around 2.30 am local time surrounded by police officers.
The victim’s family members have claimed that the cremation was done forcefully and in their absence as they were locked in their house after they tried to prevent it.
The victim’s father told reporters that the family wanted the woman’s last rites to be performed according to Hindu traditions, during the day, but the police took away the body forcibly.
However, the police has denied the allegations and claimed the victim’s family members were present at the cremation.
“The police rejects the false and misleading report, the truth is that the victim’s body was cremated by family members as per tradition under the watch of the police and the administration,” Hathras police tweeted on Wednesday.
According to the complaint lodged by the victim and shared by the police, on Sep. 14, she had gone out with her mother to collect grass from a field at night when they got separated and she was waylaid at a dark place, where several men allegedly raped and assaulted her.
The victim suffered multiple fractures and was first admitted at a hospital in Uttar Pradesh and later shifted on Monday in a critical condition to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died the next morning.
The victim’s family had alleged that the police delayed in taking action after their complaint, although the authorities have claimed all four accused were arrested soon, and underlined they would be tried in a fast-track court.
The rape has caused outrage on social networks and put the spotlight on crime against women, especially Dalits, who suffer double marginalization due to their caste identity and have faced systematic violence for years.
“Speak about the reality of assaults on Dalit women and girls. Connect dots, show larger picture of structural violence against Dalits, Dalit women. Don’t isolate, exceptionalise this case as a gruesome aberration,” renowned feminist activist Kavita Krishnan tweeted on Tuesday.
Meanwhile the opposition has demanded the resignation of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, accusing the provincial government of failing to protect women and encouraging crime against Dalits.
“Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. You have no moral right to continue as Chief Minister,” tweeted Priyanka Gandhi of the opposition Indian National Congress.
Protests in the wake of the incident continued for the second day on Wednesday in different cities across the country, including capital Delhi – where around 60 demonstrators were detained by the police – Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow and Kolkata in the east.
India had witnessed massive protests against violence against women after December 2012, when the brutal gang-rape and murder of a young physiotherapist onboard a bus in Delhi had sent shockwaves across the country.
The case marked a turning point in the country and laws against sexual violence were toughened, while the process to hand capital punishment to some of the aggressors was also accelerated, although critics have said that the measures have been insufficient and failed to stop the violence. EFE-EPA