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Tuesday Sep 29 2020
By
Reuters
,
Web Desk

Hathras gang rape: Protests erupt in New Delhi after victim dies in hospital

By
Reuters
,
Web Desk
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest after the death of a rape victim inside the premises of Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, India, September 29, 2020. — Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

A woman died at a hospital in New Delhi on Tuesday, weeks after she said she was raped by a group of men, causing protests to erupt in the city.

The 19-year-old victim, belonging to the Dalit community, was attacked and raped September 14 at a field near her home in Hathras district, 100km (62-mile) from Delhi, authorities said.

Police have arrested four men in connection with the crime, who are said to have dragged the victim to a field in Hathras district, where they allegedly raped her and left her seriously injured.

On Monday, the woman was brought from a hospital in Uttar Pradesh state to New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, where she died while undergoing treatment, authorities said.

Hundreds of protesters gathered inside the hospital premises on Tuesday, where they jostled with police and briefly blocked traffic on a main thoroughfare.

Her 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.

Every 15 minutes on average, a woman in India is reported raped, according to 2018 government data released this year.

Opposition parties have condemned the attack, with some calling for nation-wide protests.

"There is next to no protection for women. Criminals are openly committing crimes," Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the general secretary of the Indian National Congress said on Twitter.

Mayawati, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Dalit politician, wrote: "The government should provide all possible help to the victim's family and ensure speedy punishment to the culprits by prosecuting them in a fast-track court."

Akhilesh Yadav, another former chief minister, said the government was "insensitive" to crimes against women.

Chandrashekhar Azad, another Dalit politician had visited the victim over the weekend, and has now called for countrywide protests over her death.

Dalits, at the bottom of India's caste hierarchy, complain they are denied equal protection under the law because of prejudice.

Activists from the Bhim Army, a party championing Dalit rights, chanted slogans near the hospital's mortuary, where the woman's body was kept. Dozens of paramilitary troops were deployed nearby as evening fell.

Bhim Army leader Chandra Shekhar Aazad asked Dalits across the country to take to the streets, and demanded the culprits be hanged. "We can't take this anymore, we want justice," he tweeted.

District authorities in Hathras said the matter would be taken to a fast-track court to hasten the investigation.

According to BBC, the victim's brother said no arrests were made the first ten days following the incident.

"She was left for dead. She fought for her life for 14 days," he said.

The woman's death is among the top trends on Twitter, "with many calling her the forgotten Nirbhaya, a reference to the gang-rape and murder in Delhi in 2012 that shocked the world", BBC reported.

She had been named Nirbhaya, meaning "the fearless one", by the media owing to strict laws forbidding the mention of her name.

According to AFP, Bollywood personalities, cricket stars and women's rights activists took to social media to condemn the attack.

"Sad, sad day. How much longer can this be allowed to go on," wrote director-producer Farhan Akhtar.

"What happened in #Hathras is inhumane and goes beyond cruelty. Hope the culprits of this heinous crime will be brought to justice," cricket megastar Virat Kohli tweeted.

Activist Kavita Krishnan said the attack reflected the "larger picture of structural violence" against Dalit women.

The woman's home state Uttar Pradesh, ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, ranks as the least safe state for women in the country.

Last December, a 23-year-old Dalit woman died after being set ablaze by a gang of men as she made her way to a court in Uttar Pradesh to press rape charges.