Indian Police Forcibly Cremated Rape Victim, Family Alleges
The family of a 19-year-old woman in India accused the police of forcibly cremating her body after she died of injuries as a result of rape.
The victim was allegedly raped by four men in Uttar Pradesh, a state in North India, on Sept. 14. She died two weeks later at a hospital in New Delhi. She was Dalit, a still-marginalized caste in India known historically as “untouchable.”
Gut-wrenching details about the woman’s injuries have been widely reported in the Indian press, as well as on social media, drawing new attention to the country’s pervasive rape culture, particularly against Dalit women.
Before she died, the woman named four men from her village as her rapists. All four men were reportedly arrested on Sept. 27.
In the early hours of Sept. 30, the woman’s body was brought back to her village from New Delhi. Her family alleges that police officers refused to hand over her body so that they could perform final rites, instead forcibly — and hurriedly — cremating her in the middle of the night.
The woman’s brother gave an interview to the Indian Express at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday. “It appears that my sister has been cremated; the police are not telling us anything,” the brother told the Express. “We begged them to let us bring her body inside the house one last time, but they didn’t listen to us.”
Video footage from the cremation ground, which has gone viral on Twitter, shows a lone pyre burning in the dark with no family members present, while police officers push reporters away from the scene.
Police officers from the city of Hathras did not respond to calls from BuzzFeed News. In a tweet on Wednesday, the department said members of the woman’s family were present at the cremation ground.
The horrific incident has outraged Indians, with activists and students gathering to protest the police’s actions in New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, and leaders of the opposition party asking for the resignation of Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reportedly asked the state to ensure that the “strictest action” is taken against the woman’s rapists.