UPDATE 1 – Indian rape victim dies weeks after assault, hundreds protest in hospital

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(Updates with details of the protests in New Delhi; paragraphs 1, 8-12)

By Saurabh Sharma and Danish Siddiqui

LUCKNOW / NEW DELHI, India, September 29 (Reuters) – A woman from the lowest rung of India’s caste system died on Tuesday weeks after authorities said she was raped by a group of men, sparking protests in New Delhi with hundreds of people gathered at the hospital where his body lay.

Her case was the latest in a series of horrific crimes against women in India that have given her a sad reputation as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.

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

“There is hardly any protection for women. Criminals openly commit crimes,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, an opposition party leader in Congress, said on Twitter.

The 19-year-old victim, from the Dalit community, was attacked and raped on September 14 in a field near his home in Hathras district, 100 km from Delhi, authorities said.

Police arrested four men in connection with the crime.

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

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

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

Activists from Bhim’s Army, a Dalit rights party, chanted slogans near the hospital morgue, where the woman’s body was kept. Dozens of paramilitary soldiers were deployed nearby after dark.

The head of Bhim’s army, Chandra Shekhar Aazad, called on Dalits across the country to take to the streets and demanded that the culprits be hanged. “We can’t take this anymore, we want justice,” he tweeted.

Hathras district authorities said the case would be taken to a fast-track court to speed up the investigation.

Women’s home state, Uttar Pradesh, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party, is the least secure state for women in the country.

Last December, a 23-year-old Dalit woman died after being set on fire by a gang of men as she walked to a court in Uttar Pradesh to file a rape complaint. (Written by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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