India protesters lambast government over latest rape case
Officials accused of insensitivity, police accused of complicity
Women demonstrate near the Indian parliament on Thursday over the rape and killing of two teenaged girls in Uttar Pradesh state
Women’s rights groups on Thursday criticized government officials for their insensitivity in response to the gang rape and killing of two teenaged girls in Uttar Pradesh state that has sparked widespread protests and a violent crackdown by police.
The two victims were raped and then hanged to death in Katra Sadatganj village in India’s largest state. Police have arrested five of the 12 people suspected in the attack, according to local media reports.
“This terrorism against women must stop,” said Sister Helen Saldanha, secretary for the Office of Women at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India during a demonstration near the Indian parliament on Thursday.
About 100 protesters – mostly women – gathered to demand a speedy trial of the accused attackers and justice for the victims’ families.
The demonstration follows a protest on Monday outside the office of Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, who angered women’s groups by suggesting that the media had blown the attack on the teenaged girls out of proportion because such incidents were occurring in many other areas of the country. Riot police dispersed the several hundred protesters with water cannon.
“The state government is coming up with insensitive and childish statements. It is not even accepting the state’s responsibility to maintain law and order,” said Leila Passah, a women’s activist and general secretary of the Young Women’s Christian Association.
The protesters who numbered around 100, mostly women with various religious and political affiliations, wanted political parties, federal and state governments to work for speedy justice to the victims as they demonstrated.
They also demanded compensation and protection to the families of the victims and setting up of fast track courts for all cases of rape.
They plan to send a formal set of "demands to the prime minister, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and women and child welfare ministry tomorrow”, Samuel Jayakumar of the National Council of Churches of India told ucanews.com.
Annie Raja of the communist-supported National Federation of Indian Women said that "victims are poor but that does not mean they should not get justice. It is a call to the nation to come forward and raise their voice against such kind of atrocities," she said.
Jagmati Sangwan of the All India Democratic Women Association who last week led a fact finding mission to meet the victims’ family members, said Uttar Pradesh police had been complicit in the attack.
“The crime happened in full knowledge of the police,” she told ucanews.com, adding that the girls were killed because they posed a threat to their attackers.
On Tuesday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon weighed in on the issue by expressing horror over the attack and taking issue with what he called “the dismissive, destructive attitude of ‘boys will be boys’”.
A UN report in April by Rashida Manjoo, special rapporteur on violence against women, strongly criticized India’s “systemic failure” to curb sexual violence.
The state government in Uttar Pradesh has transferred the case of the two teenaged girls to India’s top investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation.
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