Police impose emergency law in Hathras as gang-rape victim’s cremation sparks clashes

By Saurabh Sharma and Alasdair Pal

LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – Indian police imposed emergency laws on Thursday in a village where a woman from the lowest rung of the country’s caste system was allegedly raped and killed, barring gatherings of more than five people after clashes erupted following her cremation.

The 19-year-old victim died from her injuries on Tuesday, having been attacked and gang-raped on Sept. 14 in a field near her home in Hathras district, 100 km (62 miles) from Delhi, authorities said.

Police have arrested four men in connection with the crime.

Clashes between protesters and police erupted in the district in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday after police cremated the woman’s body.

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

Twenty-five people were arrested in connection with the unrest, according to a police information report. An eye-witness told Reuters police had wielded batons during the clashes.

India is the one of the world’s most dangerous countries 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.

This latest case has caused widespread outrage and protests across India due to the backgrounds of those involved.

While the victim came the Dalit community – who face frequent discrimination and violence – the four men arrested were all from a higher caste, her brother told Reuters.

The victim and her brother are not being identified due to laws against naming victims of sexual violence.

Orders preventing the gathering of more than 5 people have been imposed in Hathras, Vikrant Vir, the top police official in the district, told Reuters on Thursday.

Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, leaders of the opposition Congress Party, along with Chandra Shekhar Aazad, a popular Dalit politician who founded the Bhim Army to campaign for the rights of the community, all planned to visit the district on Thursday, according to media reports.

Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, ranks as one of the most unsafe states for women in the country.

Under the emergency laws, police will stop members of political organisations from entering Hathras, Vir said.

(Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow and Alasdair Pal in New Delhi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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