(Updates with Delhi Protest Details)
By Saurabh Sharma and Danish Siddiqui
LUCKNOW / NEW DELHI, October 2 (Reuters) – Galvanized by the alleged gang rape of a young woman who died from her injuries earlier this week, political parties representing India’s oppressed Dalit community staged protests on Friday in several cities.
In Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the state where the crime took place, police indicted more than 100 Samajwadi party activists, who held placards demanding justice for the deceased woman.
The Bhim Army, a party defending the rights of Dalits, protested outside the historic Jantar Mantar monument in central Delhi.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also joined the protest, which was attended by around 3,000 people, including workers from political parties and non-profit organizations representing the Dalit community.
“The whole country would like to appeal to the government of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that the culprits are severely punished and must be hanged to death,” Kejriwal said.
The family of the deceased woman accused four high caste Hindu men, who were arrested but not charged by police. Caste still plays an influential role in the politics of Uttar Pradesh, where the current state government is led by the Bharatiya Janata party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Dalits, formerly called “untouchables”, are at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
The 19-year-old victim, who was allegedly assaulted on September 14 in a field near his home in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district, died on Tuesday. The incident sparked protests across the country. The family said the woman died from a brutal sexual assault, senior state police official Prashant Kumar told ANI News on Thursday that the woman died of a neck injury. . “No semen was found in the samples,” Kumar said.
Bhuri Singh, the victim’s uncle, said her “death statement indicated that she had been raped”.
India is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women, with one rape every 15 minutes, according to federal data. In December 2012, the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman sparked national outrage and led to a new harsh anti-rape law.
Public criticism has grown in recent days after the family of the latest victim said his body was cremated by police without their consent, a claim officials denied. Members of a regional opposition party, the Trinamool Congress, were arrested near the victim’s home on Friday while some leaders were manhandled by police, according to ANI video footage.
And in the eastern city of Kolkata, activists from the main opposition Congress party also protested. Police on Thursday prohibited siblings and congressional leaders Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi from visiting the family of the dead in their village.