OUTRAGE across India over horrific rape cases involving minors continues, with the latest incident seeing a 16-year-old victim burnt to death after a mob attacked her house.
Fifteen people were arrested on Saturday over the alleged gang rape and murder of the teenager in Jharkhand in eastern India, reported The Hindu. The girl was reportedly abducted and assaulted while walking home from a wedding.
The village elders had levied a fine of 50,000 rupees ($749) on her two alleged assailants and asked them to do 100 sit-ups, said Ram Awadh Singh, chief of the local police station. The two then proceeded to attack the victim’s family home along with a mob, burning her alive.
“We ran away to save our lives, but when returned, we found our daughter burnt and dead in our gutted house,” said the girl’s father.
“After the rape a local village panchayat was convened and the community leaders found the accused youth guilty and levied a fine on them,” said another local police official Ashish Batra as quoted by the Times of India. Panchayat refers to village-level governance practiced in India.
“Immediately after the panchayat’s verdict the accused got into an altercation with the panchayat members and the family members of the girl. They rushed to the girl’s house and set it ablaze. The girl was burnt to death in the incident.”
Reports of sexual assault of children have dominated headlines in recent weeks, leading to an outpouring of anger across the country.
Indian authorities have faced renewed pressure to act over sexual assault since the recent gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl by a group of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir state. Amid mounting outrage, the government has changed the law to allow execution for child rapists.
But the Jammu case has revived communal tensions. Protesters backing the Hindu suspects on Sunday hurled stones at the car of a Jammu and Kashmir state minister, Sham Lal Chaudhary, demanding a new inquiry into the case, media reports said.
The crowd in the Kathua district where the gruesome murder took place surrounded Chaudhary before police stepped in.
Hindu groups have held regular protests saying that the police inquiry was biased against the accused. Muslim activists have in turn taken to the streets to demand justice for the dead girl.
The girl was sedated and held in a Hindu temple, repeatedly raped over five days and then killed, according to police.
The cases are some of the most high-profile since the 2012 rape and murder of a student on a New Delhi that triggered mass protests.
Some 40,000 rape cases were reported in 2016, with many more believed to go unreported because of stigma attached to sex crimes in deeply patriarchal India.
Additional reporting from Reuters and AFP.