• First they were forced to have sexual relations against their will and then they were killed after `asking them to marry them to avoid dishonor

    Shock has spread in India over the murder and rape of two underage sisters. The young women, members of the Dalit community or untouchables, the lowest echelon of Hindu caste society, appeared hanging from a tree simulating suicide.

    This Thursday, the Indian Police announced the arrest of the six defendants who allegedly carried out the crime. According to a video widely reported on social networks, the two minors were found hanging from a tree tied around their necks with a red dupatta or scarf, together, dressed in the traditional Indian kurta in Lakhimpur Kheri district, Uttar Pradesh state.

    Lakhimpur Kheri Police Superintendent, Sanjiv Suman, explained in a well-attended press conference that a friend of the young women introduced them to other three boys that, after taking them on their motorcycles to the field, violated.

    “First they forced them to having sex against your will“said the agent, and then the sisters told them that now they would have to get marry with them -by corrupting their honor-, triggering an argument that led to the murder, he noted. “The boys killed them by strangling them with a dupatta. Then they called two other boys and … hung them from a tree,” she said. The autopsy has confirmed that the girls were raped and strangled.

    strong protests

    The discovery of the bodies hanging from a tree triggered strong protests in the area, where relatives, neighbors and relatives demanded justice from the Police and the immediate arrest of the guilty. Superintendent Suman revealed that some of the defendants were arrested last night and another one this morning, who had to be shot in the leg as he tried to flee. “All we want is death penalty for the accused, that’s all,” the brother of the victims told the Indian news agency ANI.

    Shows of indignation were not long in coming, many of them among activists and politicians representing the Dalit community, such as Chandra Shekhar Aazad, who blamed the police for not providing security to women, or the former head of regional government Mayawati, who criticized the new government leadership. “Criminals in Uttar Pradesh are not afraid because the government’s priorities are wrong,” Mayawati stressed.

    The Indian authorities have avoided identifying the accused as members of a particular caste or religion, thus avoiding possible community clashes.

    ten rapes a day

    This case has reminded many of what happened in 2014 in Badaun, also in Uttar Pradesh, when two Dalit cousins ​​were found hanging from a tree. Upper caste neighbors were accused of gang raping them, murdering them and then hanging them to make it look like suicide. A highly criticized investigation denied this.

    The ancient system of castes The Hindu divides society by birth into four large groups, in order of purity: Brahmins (priests), Shatriyas (warriors), Vaisyas (traders) and Sudras (servants), which in turn are subdivided into hundreds of subcastes.

    At the bottom of that system are the untouchable outcasts, considered impure who perform the most arduous work, such as manual collection of faeces. According to the 2011 census, there are about 200 million Dalits in India, 16.6% of the population.

    In a rural India dominated by the Hindu caste system, where the highest in the echelon forcefully maintain their position of power, the rape of Dalit women persists as one of the modes of control and supremacy.

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    In 2021 alone, 3,889 rapes of untouchables were recorded in India, which represents a dozen sexual abuses daily, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

    However, organizations such as the Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network (DHRDN) warn that these numbers only show the tip of the iceberg, since many times pressure from higher castes or from the Police itself prevents the victim from reporting the violation