A legislator from India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been arrested on charges of kidnapping and raping a teenage girl last year. The victim alleged the ruling party protected the accused.
Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a 50-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the northern Uttar Pradesh state assembly, was arrested on Friday after a police interrogation. Sengar said the rape allegations against him were "politically motivated."
The girl said that she was raped in June last year in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district and that the police refused to register a case against Sengar despite her repeated efforts to report the alleged crime.
The case made national headlines after the teenager tried to set herself on fire on April 8 in front of the home of Uttar Pradesh's chief minister, Yogi Adityanath. A day later, the girl's father died in police custody after he was beaten by Sengar's brother, who was arrested after the incident.
The teenager's family named four other people as Sengar's accomplices in the alleged rape.
India's rape problem
Crimes against women have been on the rise in the South Asian country. In 2012, the fatal gang rape of a medical student in a moving bus shocked the country, prompting thousands of people to take to the streets to demand stricter rape laws.
Sengar's arrest comes just days after a brutal rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir. Sordid and frightening details have emerged from the police charge sheet filed for the gang-rape of Asifa in January this year.
The Muslim girl was allegedly kidnapped, confined using sedatives and repeatedly gang-raped in a temple. She was strangled and then hit with a heavy stone. BJP supporters and other Hindu groups rallied in support of the accused rapists earlier this week — a development that has divided the community.
Although the government has doubled prison terms for rapists to 20 years, civil society activists continue to demand a quicker implementation of the laws.
shs/tj (AP, dpa)