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Hundreds in India protest govt handling of Dalit woman's fatal rape

Protesters accuse authorities of trying to hush up the crime, preventing access to the victim's family.
Published 02 Oct, 2020 08:48pm

Hundreds of protesters on Friday demanded the dismissal of the government of a northern Indian state where a 19-year-old woman from India’s lowest caste was allegedly gang-raped and later died in a hospital.

They carried placards and shouted “Hang the rapists” and ”First raped by devils, then by the system” as they assembled at Jantar Mantar, on open area close to Parliament in New Delhi.

The protesters, including Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar, said the Uttar Pradesh state government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, was not allowing anyone to meet the victim’s family, with police cordoning off their village.

Protestors shout slogans against the gang rape and killing of a woman in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, in New Delhi, India, Friday. — AP
Protestors shout slogans against the gang rape and killing of a woman in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, in New Delhi, India, Friday. — AP

Students look on after getting their face painted to condemn the gang-rape a woman, in Mumbai on October 2. — AFP
Students look on after getting their face painted to condemn the gang-rape a woman, in Mumbai on October 2. — AFP

They accused authorities of trying to hush up the crime. Police say they have arrested four suspects, all from an upper caste.

Read: India's Dalit women often face sexual violence because of, yes, their caste

Indian television news channels on Friday showed their journalists being refused entry to the village by large numbers of police. An officer outside the village said the media would be allowed in after the investigation is completed.

Bhaskar said the hasty cremation of the victim’s body without the family’s approval showed the callousness of the state government. She demanded the dismissal of Yogi Adiyanath, the state’s top elected official.

The woman was cremated early Wednesday, with the family alleging that police did not allow them to perform her final rites. Videos on social media show the family weeping as police insisted on cremating the body without allowing them to take it home.

Protestors stand on a barricade and raise their voices against the gang rape and killing of a woman, in New Delhi, India, Friday. — AP
Protestors stand on a barricade and raise their voices against the gang rape and killing of a woman, in New Delhi, India, Friday. — AP

Women shout slogans during a protest against the gang-rape of a woman in New Delhi on October 2. — AFP
Women shout slogans during a protest against the gang-rape of a woman in New Delhi on October 2. — AFP

Activists of Indian Youth Congress, dressed as Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of his birth anniversary marked as the 'Gandhi Jayanti' day, attend a candle march protest against the gang-rape of a woman in Uttar Pradesh, in New Delhi on October 2. — AFP
Activists of Indian Youth Congress, dressed as Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of his birth anniversary marked as the 'Gandhi Jayanti' day, attend a candle march protest against the gang-rape of a woman in Uttar Pradesh, in New Delhi on October 2. — AFP

A leader of the main opposition Congress party, Priyanka Gandhi, who was prevented by police from visiting the family on Thursday with her brother, Rahul Gandhi, said at a prayer meeting at a temple in New Delhi on Friday that blocking off the village was an injustice to the family and showed that the state is unsafe for women.

Dalits — formerly known as “untouchables” and at the bottom of India’s 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.

A demonstrator uses a lipstick to write on a billboard during a protest after the death of a rape victim, in New Delhi, India, October 2. — Reuters
A demonstrator uses a lipstick to write on a billboard during a protest after the death of a rape victim, in New Delhi, India, October 2. — Reuters

Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal (C) participates in a protest against the alleged gang-rape of a 19-year-old woman in New Delhi. — AFP
Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal (C) participates in a protest against the alleged gang-rape of a 19-year-old woman in New Delhi. — AFP

An activist shouts slogans during a protest against the gang rape of a woman in in New Delhi, India, Friday. — AP
An activist shouts slogans during a protest against the gang rape of a woman in in New Delhi, India, Friday. — AP

In India, rape and sexual violence have been under the spotlight since the 2012 gang-rape and killing of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus. The attack galvanised massive protests and inspired lawmakers to order the creation of fast-track courts dedicated to rape cases and stiffen penalties for those convicted of the crime.


Header image: Protestors gather to raise their voices against the gang rape and killing of a woman in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, in New Delhi, India, Friday. — AP