Indian police arrest six men accused of raping and murdering teenage sisters

Girls belonged to marginalised Dalit caste, whose members have historically faced discrimination

A crime scene tape cordons off a tree where the bodies of two teenage girls were found hanging after they were allegedly raped. AP
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Police in India on Thursday arrested six men on suspicion of involvement in the gang rape and murder of two teenage sisters in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

The sisters, aged 15 and 17, accompanied the men, who were known to them, on motorcycles to a sugar cane field near Lakhimpur Kheri on Wednesday. Their bodies were later found hanging from a tree.

The girls belonged to the marginalised Dalit community — the lowest caste among Hindus — whose members have historically faced discrimination.

Indian women protest against rape in New Delhi. AFP

The accused men belong to Muslim and Hindu communities. One of the accused was arrested early on Thursday following a shoot-out as he tried to evade police.

Police said the girls were in a relationship with two of the men and that others including a neighbour helped them to hang the bodies following the sexual assault.

Sanjiv Suman, superintendent of police in Lakhimpur Kheri, said two of the accused lured the girls to a farm where they assaulted them. An argument broke when the girls demanded that the men marry them.

“The men refused and after a heated argument, they strangled the sisters,” Mr Suman told reporters.

An autopsy report confirmed sexual assault and death by asphyxiation.

Sex with a woman under the age of 18 is considered rape under Indian law.

The family of the victims denied claims that the teenagers were in a relationship and accused the men of kidnapping them.

Angry villagers held protests while demanding the death penalty for the accused.

India has a chronic problem of violence against women, with about 32,000 cases of rape recorded in 2021, National Crime Records Bureau data show.

Sexual violence against women from marginalised communities such as Dalits is also high.

A Dalit girl was allegedly raped and murdered by an upper-caste Hindu man in Hathras in the same state last year and her body was hurriedly cremated by authorities, triggering widespread public outrage.

Two teenage cousins from the marginalised community were allegedly raped and murdered by upper-caste Hindus in 2014 and their bodies were hung from a mango tree.

The case from the state’s Badaun district led to nationwide street protests following a bungled police investigation that still remains inconclusive.

Updated: September 15, 2022, 5:16 PM