Protests have erupted in several parts of India after the body of a gang-rape victim was cremated late at night, against the wishes of her family.
The 19-year-old victim from the Dalit community – the lowest rung of the ancient Hindu caste system – was attacked and raped on September 14 in a field near her home in Hathras district, 100km (62 miles) from the capital, New Delhi, authorities said.
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She died in hospital on Tuesday from injuries sustained during the attack. Police have arrested four men in connection with the rape.
The victim’s brother told Reuters news agency neither the police nor government officials sought the family’s permission to perform the last rites for the victim in her native village in Uttar Pradesh state at about 2am (20:30 GMT Tuesday) on Wednesday.
“We begged the authorities and police that we wanted to perform the last rites in the morning but they did not listen to us and the last rites were performed by them,” he said.
“We were put behind the barricades they formed using the police force. We could not even see the face of our dead sister.”
The victim and her brother are not being identified due to laws against naming victims of sexual violence.
Police and government officials in the woman’s home district did not respond to requests for comment.
The crime has caused outrage in India, where violence against women and those from so-called “lower castes” is endemic. The victim’s brother said the accused men were all members of a privileged caste in the village.
Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ranks as the most unsafe state for women in the country. Last December, a 23-year-old Dalit woman was set ablaze by a gang of men as she made her way to a court in Uttar Pradesh to press rape charges.
Meanwhile, protesters in Hathras were met by police who charged them with batons, a witness said.
Angry protesters, many wearing masks to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus, scuffled with police in New Delhi while in Kolkata, protesters burned a big picture of Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh who is is known for his anti-Muslim hate speech.
Adityanath has ordered a high-level police inquiry into the incident.
The case was the latest in a string of gruesome crimes against women in India that have given it the dismal reputation of being one of the worst places in the world to be female.
One woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in India in 2018, according to the latest government data released in January.