India detains politicians as unrest flares over gang-rape

LUCKNOW/DELHI, INDIA (REUTERS) – Indian police arrested several opposition leaders on Thursday (Oct 1) heading for the site where a low-caste woman died after being gang-raped in the latest high-profile assault to whip up nationwide anger and protests.

The 19-year-old victim from the Dalit community, which often faces violence and discrimination, died from injuries on Tuesday after the Sept 14 attack in a field near her home in Hathras district, authorities said.

Police have arrested four men for rape.

India is one of the world’s most dangerous places for women, with a rape occurring every 15 minutes, according to federal data – figures that rights groups say vastly underestimate the scale of the problem.

Ms Priyanka and Mr Rahul Gandhi, siblings and leaders of the main opposition Congress Party, were blocked and arrested by police as they tried to drive then walk to see the woman’s family in Hathras about 100km from Delhi, the party said.

Video footage from ANI news agency showed Rahul – the descendant of three former prime ministers – jostling with police before falling to the ground.

Congress said other senior party members were also detained, without giving more deails.

TROUBLE

Protesters and security forces had clashed in the district of northern Uttar Pradesh state on Wednesday after police cremated the woman’s body.

The victim’s brother told Reuters the cremation was against the wishes of her family, who had wanted to perform funeral rites. Local officials deny this.

Twenty-five people were arrested over the unrest, according to a police information report. A witness told Reuters police had wielded batons.

Authorities on Thursday said they were barring gatherings of five or more people and would block politicians from the area.

The victim and her brother are not being identified due to laws against naming victims of sexual violence. The four men arrested were all from a higher caste, her brother told Reuters.

Uttar Pradesh, with a population of more than 200 million people and ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, ranks as particularly unsafe for women.

Opposition leaders have highlighted several other violent incidents in Uttar Pradesh in recent days, including allegations of a similar gang-rape of a Dalit woman in Balrampur.

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