Second Dalit woman dies in a week after being gang-raped in India

01 Oct 2020

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A woman holds a placard during a protest after the death of a rape victim on a street in Mumbai on September 30. — Reuters
A woman holds a placard during a protest after the death of a rape victim on a street in Mumbai on September 30. — Reuters
A man holds a placard during a protest after the death of a rape victim on a street in Mumbai on September 30. — Reuters
A man holds a placard during a protest after the death of a rape victim on a street in Mumbai on September 30. — Reuters

A woman from India's marginalised Dalit community has died after being gang-raped, police said on Thursday, days after the death of a teenager from the same low-caste group at the hands of a group of high-caste men sparked outrage.

The 22-year-old, a member of India's “untouchable” Dalit community, was allegedly raped by two men on Tuesday and died while being taken to hospital, police in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh said.

The latest assaults come months after four men were hanged for the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi, a case that came to symbolise the nation's problems with sexual violence.

Police said two men in the latest case had been arrested on charges of gang-rape and murder, without giving further details on their identities.

An investigation was underway and the suspects may be tried in a special fast-track court, they added.

“A rickshaw wallah (driver) brought her home. [She] was thrown in front of our house. My child could barely stand or speak,” the NDTV news channel quoted her mother as saying.

The incident took place in Balrampur district in Uttar Pradesh state, around 500 kilometres from where the other Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped in mid-September by four upper-caste men.

India's 200 million Dalits have long faced discrimination and abuse, and campaigners say attacks have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

An average of 87 rape cases were reported every day last year, according to the latest data released on Tuesday by the National Crime Records Bureau, but large numbers are thought to go unreported.

The bureau reported an increase of more than seven per cent in the number of crimes against women in 2019 compared to the previous year.

Police impose emergency law in Indian village

Meanwhile, Indian police imposed emergency laws on Thursday in the village where the first Dalit victim was raped and killed, barring gatherings of more than five people after clashes erupted following her cremation.

The 19-year-old victim died from her injuries, having been attacked and gang-raped on September 14 in a field near her home in Hathras district, authorities said. Police have arrested four men in connection with the crime.

Clashes between protesters and police erupted in the district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday after police cremated the woman's body.

The victim's brother told Reuters the cremation was carried out against the wishes of her family, who had wanted to perform their own funeral rites. Local officials deny this.

Twenty five people were arrested in connection with the unrest, according to a police information report. An eye witness told Reuters police had wielded batons during the clashes.

Orders preventing the gathering of more than five people have been imposed in Hathras, Vikrant Vir, the top police official in the district, told Reuters on Thursday.

Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, leaders of the opposition Congress Party, along with Chandra Shekhar Aazad, a popular Dalit politician who founded the Bhim Army to campaign for the rights of the community, all planned to visit the district on Thursday, according to media reports.

Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, ranks as one of the most unsafe states for women in the country.

Under the emergency laws, police will stop members of political organisations from entering Hathras, Vir said.