Indian police detain key opposition leaders marching against rape

Police prevent politicians from entering a Uttar Pradesh village where a Dalit woman was allegedly raped and killed, sparking outrage.

Twenty-five people were arrested in connection with the unrest, according to a police information report. A witness told Reuters police wielded batons during the clashes [File: Amit Dave/Reuters]

Indian police imposed emergency laws on Thursday in a village where a Dalit woman was allegedly raped and killed, barring gatherings of more than five people after clashes erupted following her cremation.

Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who were on the way to Hathras district to meet the victim’s family, were detained by the police.

Police stopped their convoy on a highway on the way to the village. They got out of their car and started walking to the village, but were blocked again by the police.

Dozens of Congress party workers scuffled with the police, who used sticks to disperse them. Some party workers were injured, and Rahul Gandhi slipped to the ground in the melee before he was taken away by police, video on television news channels showed.

The 19-year-old woman, from the class formerly known as “untouchables” under India’s Hindu caste system, died from her injuries on Tuesday, having been attacked and gang raped on September 14 in a field near her home in Hathras district, 100 km (62 miles) from the capital New Delhi, authorities said.

Police have arrested four men in connection with the crime.

Clashes between protesters and police erupted in the district in the northern state of 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.

A second woman has died after being gang raped in the state of Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state. The two separate cases are reigniting protests about sexual violence – and the country’s caste system. Both women were from the marginalised Dalit community.

The second victim was a 22-year-old who was allegedly raped by two men on Tuesday and passed away while being taken to hospital, police in northern Uttar Pradesh state said.

The victim’s mother told the NDTV news channel that her daughter had been brought home and thrown in front of the house after the attack.”My child could barely stand or speak,” she said.

25 arrested

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

India is 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.

A demonstrator is arrested by police during a protest outside Uttar Pradesh’s state bhavan (building) in New Delhi, following the woman’s rape and murder [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

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

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

According to human rights organizations, Dalit women are particularly vulnerable to caste-based discrimination and sexual violence.

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 five people have been imposed in Hathras, Vikrant Vir, the top police official in the district, told Reuters on Thursday.

Chandrashekhar Azad, a popular Dalit politician who founded the Bhim Army to campaign for the rights of the community, also 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.