Five men held over gang-rape in India
Two constables arrested in probe into murder of two young cousins
FIVE men, including two constables, have been arrested for the rape and murder of two cousins found hanged on a mango tree last week, after a storm of outrage over alleged police inaction.
The girls, aged 12 and 14 were members of India's lowest "Dalit" – "untouchable" – caste and had been kidnapped by upper caste men on Tuesday evening.
Their families searched in vain for them and they were found dead the following morning. The images of their bodies hanging from a mango tree caused revulsion throughout the world and highlighted the violence and persecution suffered by Dalits in India's Hindu caste system.
Their murders also provoked anger in India where the prime minister's office demanded a report on the case and Maneka Gandhi, a government minister, announced plans for nationwide rape crisis centres to speed sexual assault cases through the country's notoriously slow courts.
She also supported calls for the case to be handed over to the country's Central Bureau of Investigation amid concerns over the impartiality of local police. The arrest of two police officers for alleged complicity in the murders and dereliction of duty followed a complaint by the father of one of the victims.
He claimed that when he reported his daughter missing he was abused by constables who refused to search for her. His daughter could have been saved had the police reacted quickly, he said. He said caste prejudice – the officers arrested are from the same higher "Yadav" caste as the three men accused of the attack – was a factor in their attitude.
Any convicted are likely to be executed under new tougher penalties, introduced amid protests about the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a Delhi bus in 2012.
The mother of one of the girls said the perpetrators should face capital punishment. She said: "Hang them in public."
The father of a victim, a poor farmer from Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, said he was not interested in government compensation of about £5,000 (€6,100) until the men responsible for the murders were brought to justice. "These policemen didn't act for hours when they could have saved two young lives. Why is caste everything?" he asked.
All the men arrested are members of the same Yadav caste as Akhilesh Yadav, the state's chief minister, who dismissed public concern on Friday. In an apparent change of heart, Mr Yadav yesterday recommended that New Delhi's Central Bureau of Investigation investigate the crimes.
The growing row over the police handling of the case coincided with another series of gang-rapes and murders near the capital New Delhi.
A mother of a 12-year-old girl was beaten to death as she tried to save her daughter from being molested by men who broke into their flat.
Another mother of a rape victim in Uttar Pradesh was badly beaten by men who demanded she drop rape charges and a 23-year-old woman was gang-raped in a moving car in Noida, one of the capital's satellite cities just across its border in Uttar Pradesh.
Dalit leaders in Badaun, where the two girls were found hanging, have warned of a "caste war" against upper caste Yadavs unless the men responsible are quickly brought to justice.
"Government officers won't help a Dalit when it comes to disputes with upper castes. They will support their communities and create imbalance in the system. What happened in Badaun clearly tells us that police will favour and shield a Yadav criminal and will see to it that a Dalit doesn't get justice," said Sinod Kumar Shakya, a member of the state assembly for the Dalit-backed Bahujan Samaj Party.