Backlash grows over new India rape outrages

Outrage grew in India Friday over two shocking rape cases as the new government said it was planning to set up a special crisis cell to ensure justice for victims of sex attacks.

On Thursday it emerged that two teenagers from a low caste had been found hanging from a tree after being gang-raped in their village.

A day later police said the father of the chief suspect in another rape case had savagely attacked the mother of his son’s alleged victim.

Rights activists and politicians said that the cases highlighted that the authorities in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh were “not serious” about tackling sexual crimes.

India revised its laws on sex attacks in the wake of the December 2012 gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi which triggered outrage, but they have done little to stem the tide of sex attacks.

Police in Uttar Pradesh said on Friday that three people, including a police constable, had been arrested in connection with a sex attack on the two girls in the village of Budaun earlier this week.

The two cousins, aged 14 and 15, were found hanging from a mango tree on Wednesday morning, with subsequent tests showing that they had been the victim of multiple sexual assaults.

Mukul Goel, a senior police officer, told AFP that it had still not been determined whether the victims had committed suicide or been strung up as a way of silencing them after they were raped.

“Only a thorough police probe would confirm whether the girls were murdered or they committed suicide,” the officer told AFP.

– Police sacked –

Indian media reported that two policemen had been sacked over their handling of the case as well as carrying news of the police constable’s arrest.

But Maneka Gandhi, who was appointed child welfare minister by India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week, said that every officer who had been involved in the case should be dismissed.

“Police is still not acting in the right direction. All policemen involved in the incident should be terminated,” she told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency, lashing out at what she termed “police laxity”.

Gandhi said that she planned to set up a “rape crisis cell” to ensure swift justice for victims of sex crime.

Her comments came after police said that the mother of another rape victim was allegedly beaten by the father of the accused after her family refused to withdraw allegations against his son, police said Friday.

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was critically ill in hospital after suffering multiple fractures in the attack at the family’s home in the Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh, police and medics said.

The father of the accused has been arrested and police said they were still looking for several other suspects accused of taking part in the attack on the victim’s mother on May 26.

“The father of the rapist was arrested by our team this morning. Other accused shall be arrested shortly,” local police chief R. K. Chaturvedi told AFP.

According to the NDTV network, the mother was attacked in a field near the family home by five men who had already tried to pressure her into dropping the complaint.

The two incidents have been seized upon by opponents of the local government in Uttar Pradesh which is run by the socialist Samajwadi Party.

The party’s leader Mulayam Singh Yadav — whose son is the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh — told an election rally last month that he was opposed to the death penalty for gang rapists brought in after the December 2012 bus attack, saying “boys make mistakes”.

Mayawati, a former chief minister of the state who is regarded as the politician champion of India’s lower castes, told a press conference that there “has been a spike in instances of lawlessness, instances of crime, rape, murder, robberies and riots”.

“The Samajwadi Party government in UP doesn’t seem serious at all,” she said.

“Given the circumstances I demand that this government be dissolved and the state is placed under President’s rule.”

Amnesty International said the gang rape of the cousins showed that women from lower castes “face multiple levels of discrimination and violence” despite “the existence of constitutional safeguards and special laws”.

There is a long history of women and girls from India’s lower castes — especially those who belong to the Dalit caste who were previously known as “untouchables” — of being sexually abused by people from higher castes.

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