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Gang rape case stepped up

May 31, 2014

The leader of the India's Uttar Pradesh state has ordered a federal investigation into the rape and murder of two girls found hanged. The victims' family had said they did not trust local police to pursue the case.

Members of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union shout slogans during a protest against a gang rape of two teenage girls in Katra village, outside the Uttar Pradesh state house, in New Delhi, India, Friday, May 30, 2014. A top government official said the northern Uttar Pradesh state has sacked two police officers who failed to respond to a complaint by the father of the two teenage girls who went missing and were later found gang raped and killed. The placard at right reads, "Punish the culprits of gang-rape and murder of two Dalit girls." (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Image: picture-alliance/AP

The office of Uttar Pradesh's chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, said on Saturday that he had asked for the case to be referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) following pressure from the families.

"Officials informed the chief minister that the family of the victims had sought a CBI probe into the matter," said a statement on the state government's website. "Following this, the Chief Minister took the decision of a CBI probe into the incident."

The announcement came after police said five men had been arrested over the rape and murder of the girls, who were said to be cousins aged 14 and 15. The girls were abducted in the Buduyun district of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday and their bodies were found hanging from a tree the following day.

The family complained that police had ignored a report, with local officers being "hand in glove" with the killers.

Policemen charged as accessories

Police began to make arrests on Wednesday after a silent protest by villagers beneath the tree where the girls were found.

Rape and murder charges were filed against three of the men after an autopsy revealed the victims had been raped and died of asphyxiation. The two remaining men were said to be policemen facing accusations of being criminal accessories.

Local police superintendant Atul Saxena told the AFP news agency that the girls "were still alive when they were hanged." Earlier reports had suggested this was not the case.

Ingrained caste system

The girls were members of India's "dalit" caste - once known as the "untouchables" - and had been abducted from a field where they had gone because there was no toilet at home. Under India's ancient caste system, there is a long history of girls from lower castes - especially the dalits - being sexually abused by people from higher ones.

The crime sparked outrage and protests in India, with much of the anger directed at Chief Minister Yadav himself. Yadav last month opposed legislation making gang rape a capital punishment, notably making the comment "Boys will be boys."

Rights group Amnesty International has said India's lack of toilets is a major issue, making women "more vulnerable to violence."

rc/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)