World News

Saturday 26 July 2014

Rape and murder of Indian girls sparks national outrage

Dean Nelson, London

Published 31/05/2014|02:30

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Indian policeman with two of the men accused of the rape and hanging at the Budaun district in Uttar Pradesh
Indian policeman with two of the men accused of the rape and hanging at the Budaun district in Uttar Pradesh

As outrage grows in India over the gang rape and murder of two Dalit teenagers found hanging from a tree, the mother of a 14-year-old "untouchable" who was kidnapped and raped earlier this year has said she wishes her daughter had been killed too.

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India's new government last night said it was planning to set up a special crisis cell to ensure justice for victims of sex attacks and two police officers were sacked in the wake of the rape and murder of the teenagers that has revived nationwide anger over the frequency and brutality of attacks.

In a further shocking example of how women from India's "untouchable" caste are easy targets for rapists – and rarely get justice – I spoke to a mother who said she wished her raped daughter had died, such is the stigma surrounding the issue in her caste.

Brimti Ram (40) had been living in a form of slavery with her Dalit family in Bagana village, around 100 miles from the capital Delhi, when her daughter and three friends were seized by five relatives and neighbours of their feudal landlord.

They later revealed that they had been drugged and raped throughout the night.

She, her husband Lila Ram and their five children farm 20 acres of rice and barley fields – without pay – in a futile attempt to service a £7,000 generational debt that they can never pay off.

Many of their fellow villagers live under the same bonded conditions, which are illegal but common in India. Rapes and sexual assaults of Dalits are common but often unreported and violence is frequent.

Fifteen "untouchable" boys have been murdered in the village in the last 30 years, community leader Virender Singh Bagodia said yesterday.

The community is treated "a notch above how people treat their animals", he said.

Brimti Ram said they have been so shamed by their daughter's rape that neither she nor her 16-year-old sister will ever be able to find a husband.

She had heard of the murders of the two Dalit girls in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh and said she could understand the pain of their families, but she wishes her daughter had been killed too.

"Rape is loss of our reputation, livelihood, honour and the end of our future," she said. "If my daughter doesn't get married and suffers her entire life, wouldn't it have been better for her that she had been killed by those beasts?"

Her family is one of more than 80 who fled their village amid death threats from the upper caste Hindus in their village who had already banned them from sending their children to school, visiting the temple, or buying food from their shops. They are now living on a pavement in central Delhi and are too afraid to return to their homes.

"My daughter was a cheerful girl before but now she's just silent", she added.

She was speaking after aides to India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, demanded a report on the gang-rape and murder of two "untouchable" cousins who were found hanging from a mango tree in Katra village, near Badaun.

The unnamed girls, aged 14 and 15, were, just like the girls in Bagana, going to the lavatory in a nearby field when they were grabbed by higher caste men – from the local Yadav peasant farmer community.

They were last seen by an uncle as they were being led away but when he challenged the men they threatened him with a gun.

The father of one of the girls yesterday said the police had "refused to look for my girl" and that when he confronted one of the accused at his home, he admitted abducting the girls but refused to release them.

Police in Uttar Pradesh said yesterday that three people, including a police constable, had been arrested in connection with the sex attack, while they were still searching for two further suspects.

Mukul Goel, a senior police officer, said it had still not been determined whether the victims had committed suicide or been strung up as a way of silencing them after the rape.

Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, yesterday snapped at a reporter when asked about the rising number of rape cases in his state: "You are safe, why are you bothered?"

Campaigners said the two separate cases highlight the high level of sexual violence suffered by its low caste and "untouchable" women. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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