New Delhi, Oct 1 (efe-epa).- The rape and subsequent death of a young woman of the “untouchable” Dalit community by four upper caste men turned into a political circus on Thursday, with Indian opposition leaders and hundreds of supporters being intercepted by police en route to the victim’s village.
Tension reached its peak when police arrested two Congress Party leaders – the brother-sister duo of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi -, who led a march from New Delhi to Hathras, the young woman’s village, about 200 kilometres (124 miles) away in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The great-grandchildren of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and grandchildren late former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were on their way to express their condolences to the victim’s family, members of the Dalit community, located on the lowest rung of the Hindu caste system.
“In times of sorrow, loved ones are not left alone,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, and accused the police of violent conduct against him. Meanwhile, the media was doing a live broadcast of the incident, including when the politician fell to the ground while being stopped by the police.
Rahul directly blamed the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the controversial Yogi Adityanath, of the Hindu nationalist party BJP, for the lack of safely for women and Dalits in the region, as well as the entire controversy surrounding the incident.
“Meeting a family in mourning also scares the government. Don’t be afraid so much, Chief Minister!” added Gandhi.
The state administration had imposed a ban on large gatherings and placed barricades claiming it was a safety measures against the Covid-19 crisis, which in India, the second most affected country in the world after the United States, has already caused more than 6.3 million infections.
However, the restrictions did not stop hundreds of people from different organizations from conducting sit-ins and demonstrations against the Uttar Pradesh government.
The victim, a 19-year-old girl, died Tuesday morning at a hospital in New Delhi, succumbing to her injuries that left her medical care since Sep. 14, when she was raped by four men in Hathras.
The young woman had gone out with her mother to the field to cut grass. As the two of them got separated, the assailants dragged her to a hidden place, raped her and then tried to strangle her.
In the early morning of Wednesday, hours after her death, the young woman’s body was taken to her village and cremated by the police without the consent of her family, who were unable to conduct the last rites, according to the family.
The young woman’s family also blamed the police for not responding quickly enough after the assault was reported, whereas the authorities claimed they had immediately arrested the perpetrators.
This incident of rape has once again highlighted a persistent problem in India.
According to the country’s National Crime Records Bureau, 33,977 rapes were reported in the country in 2018, of which 2,957 – an average of more than eight per day – involved lower caste women.
National Human Rights Commission of India said in a statement that this incident “has raised many questions about the law and order situation in the State.”
“Many such incidents have occurred in the State of Uttar Pradesh where the members of the Scheduled Community (lower castes) have been subjected to discrimination and harassment by the people belonging to upper caste. There have been (…) allegations of inaction against the police authorities and the administration. This is a serious issue of violation of human rights,” it said. EFE-EPA