Indian rape victim dies in hospital after being set ablaze
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[December 07, 2019]
By Zeba Siddiqui, Sankalp Phartiyal and Mayank Bhardwaj
UNNAO, India (Reuters) - A 23-year-old rape
victim set on fire by a gang of men, which included her alleged rapists,
has died in a New Delhi hospital, prompting protests from opposition
leaders who blamed the ruling party for failing to check incidents of
violence against women.
The woman was on her way to board a train in Unnao district of northern
Uttar Pradesh state to attend a court hearing over her rape when she was
doused with kerosene and set on fire on Thursday, according to police.
She was airlifted to New Delhi for treatment later that day.
The attack, the second major case of violence against women in the past
two weeks, has sparked public outrage in India.
The woman died on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest, Dr. Shalabh
Kumar, the head of burns and plastic department at New Delhi's
Safdarjung Hospital told Reuters.
"She was having 95% burns," he said, adding the woman's wind pipe was
burned and "toxic and hot fumes" had filled her lungs.
The woman had filed a complaint with Unnao police in March alleging she
had been raped at gun-point on December 12, 2018, police documents
showed. The woman named two local men, one of them was arrested by
police, the other absconded.
Having been subsequently jailed, the alleged rapist was released last
week after securing bail, police officer S.K. Bhagat said in Lucknow,
the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.
On Thursday, the rape victim was seized by five men, including the two
people she had named in her complaint, and beaten, stabbed and set on
fire, local media reported citing her statement to police.
Still ablaze, she walked nearly a kilometer, seeking help before finally
calling the police herself, according to Aaj Taj TV news channel.
All five of the accused have been arrested and are in 14-day judicial
custody, Vikrant Vir, superintendent of police, Unnao, told Reuters.
A fast-track court would hear the case and the guilty would not be
spared, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said.
In India, lengthy trials, often a result of fewer courts and judges,
tend to delay convictions, leaving poor, disillusioned victims with
little money and patience to pursue the case.
Also, long trials result in bails to the accused who often intimidate
victims and their witnesses, and try tampering with evidence.
[to top of second column]
A relative of a 23-year-old rape victim, who died in a New Delhi
hospital on Friday after she was set on fire by a gang of men, which
included her alleged rapists, is consoled as she mourns the death of
the victim outside a house in Unnao in the northern state of Uttar
Pradesh, India, December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
The victim's father has alleged that his family was been harassed
and threatened by the family of the accused.
"We tried to seek protection as the accused and their family kept
threatening my daughter and my family, but we received little help
from the government," he said. "Now, every single accused should be
either hanged or shot dead."
CRIME IN UTTAR PRADESH
Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state and has become
notorious for its poor record regarding crimes against women, with
more than 4,200 cases of rape reported there in 2017 - the highest
in the country.
Opposition leaders, including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general
secretary of India’s main opposition Congress party, accused the
Uttar Pradesh government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's
ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, of failing to curb crimes against
In an earlier incident in Unnao, a young woman had accused Uttar
Pradesh lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar of raping her in 2017. In July
last year, the victim and her lawyer were critically injured in a
highway collision, when a truck hit the car in which they were
traveling. The woman's two aunts, who were also in the car, were
killed in the accident.
Sengar denies the rape and any involvement in the car crash.
On Friday, Indian police shot dead four men who were suspected of
raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian near Hyderabad city,
drawing applause from across the country angry over violence against
But many were also concerned that police had over reached in
shooting the alleged suspects without any trial.
"What will it take (to end rapes)? Not the encounter of just the
poor men who rape but swift arrest and certain punishment of all
rapists, however powerful or closely related to the victim," said
Karuna Nundy, a lawyer practicing at India's Supreme Court who was
instrumental in shaping anti-rape laws in 2013.
"And that takes real change, it's not as easy as passing a legal
amendment to increase sentencing."
(Additional reporting by Saurabh Sharma and Bhargav Acharya; Editing
by Michael Perry & Shri Navaratnam)
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