Police fired for inaction on India gang-rape and hanging of two girls
STATE officials in north India have fired two police officers for failing to investigate the disappearance of a pair of teenagers who were gang-raped and found hanging from a tree, according to Austrialian Times report.
The firings came after widespread outrage and growing criticism of India for a series of sexual attacks on women around the country.
But in a country with a long history of tolerance for sexual violence, the state's top official mocked journalists for asking about the attack.
'Aren't you safe?' said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav from state capital Lucknow. 'You're not facing any danger, are you? Then why are you worried? What's it to you?'
News of the gang-rape and a video of the girls' corpses hanging from a mango tree spread around the world like wildfire and it was the top story on India's 24-hour news stations.
But in just the past few days, Uttar Pradesh has also seen the mother of a rape victim brutally attacked and a 17-year-old girl gang-raped by four men.
Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state, with nearly 200 million people.
Statistics say around 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. But activists believe that number is artificially low, since women are often pressed by family or police to stay quiet about sexual assaults.
Indian police and politicians, who for decades had done little about sexual violence, have faced mounting public anger since the December 2013 gang-rape and murder of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus, an attack that sparked national outrage over the treatment of women.
The state's former chief minister yesterday lashed out at the ruling government.
'There is no law and order in the state,' said Mayawati, who uses only one name. 'It is the law of the jungle.'
Hours later, the chief minister ordered that suspects in the attack be tried in special 'fast track' courts, to get around India's notoriously slow judicial system.
The girls, who were 14 and 15, were raped in the tiny village of Katra, about 180 miles (300 kilometres) from Lucknow.
Police say the two cousins disappeared Tuesday night after going into fields near their home to use the toilet, not having one in their home.
The father of one girl went to police that night to report them missing, but said they refused to help.
When the bodies were discovered the next day, angry villagers silently protested the police inaction by refusing to allow the bodies to be cut down from the tree.
The villagers allowed authorities to take down the corpses after the first arrests were made on Wednesday. Police arrested two police officers and two men from the village, and were searching for three more suspects.
On Thursday, officials suspended two officers for ignoring the father's pleas for help and they were fired on Friday.
Top state official Anil Kumar Gupta said the policemen had been charged with criminal conspiracy for refusing to file a complaint or take any action.
The girls were Dalits, from the community once known as 'untouchables' in India's ancient caste system. The fired policemen and the men accused in the attack are Yadavs, a low-caste community that dominates that part of Uttar Pradesh. The chief minister is from the same caste.
Meanwhile, the chief minister's mocking comments to reporters were not a surprise to many in India.
Last month, Yadav's father a former chief minister and head of the state's ruling party told an election rally that the party opposed a law calling for gang rapists to be executed.
'Boys will be boys,' Mulayam Singh Yadav said. 'They make mistakes.'
Kavita Krishnan, a women's rights activist, said such comments make clear to police that rape isn't taken seriously by officials.
She called the chief minister's comments 'a trivialisation of rape.'
While sexual assaults are reported across India, there have been a string of high-profile attacks in just the past few days in Uttar Pradesh.
On Thursday, police arrested three men for brutally attacking the mother of a rape victim after she refused to withdraw her complaint.
The attack, in the town of Etawah, followed the May 11 rape of the woman's teenage daughter. A local man was arrested after the mother filed a complaint with authorities.
Five men including the father, a brother and a cousin of the man accused in the rape followed the victim's mother away from her house on Monday and beat her, demanding she drop the accusation, said Dinesh Kumar, the town's police superintendent.
The mother was in critical condition in a hospital, with numerous broken bones and internal injuries.
Police arrested three men for the attack and were looking for two others.
On Wednesday, a 17-year-old woman was attacked in a field and raped by four men in south-western Uttar Pradesh, police said. One man has been arrested.