After Gang Rape of Girl, 16, First a Fine, and Then a Murder
By Kai Schultz The New York Times
May 5, 2018
RAIPUR, India — The Indian authorities on Saturday arrested 15 people in connection with the gang rape and killing of a teenage girl, the latest in a recent string of high-profile crimes against women that have set off heated debates about the handling of sexual assaults in the country.
The authorities said a group of men raped the 16-year-old girl multiple times after kidnapping her from Chatra, a village in the state of Jharkhand, in eastern India, while she was attending a family member’s wedding on Thursday.
When the girl was let go the next day, the authorities said, village leaders imposed a fine of about $750 on Dhanu Singh Bhuiyan, the young man who was said to have orchestrated her abduction.
That ruling angered Mr. Bhuiyan and some of the other men in the community, and they beat the girl’s family for complaining about the treatment of their daughter.
While the girl’s family argued with community members, Mr. Bhuiyan, who lived near the victim and knew her well, slipped away from the crowd, cornered the girl in her home and lit her on fire.
The authorities said at least two of the 15 in custody were village leaders accused of tampering with evidence and meting out their own fines and punishments instead of reporting the crime to the police.
“I think it is a degradation in society as a whole for people to take the law into their own hands,” said Jitendra Kumar Singh, the deputy commissioner of police in Chatra.
Mr. Bhuiyan, who initially escaped through a window after he killed the girl, was captured on Saturday, Mr. Singh said.
Last month, the killing of an 8-year-old girl from a nomadic community in northern India ignited protests across the country and provoked political fallout for the government, including the resignation of two high-level officials from the governing party.
Critics said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and members of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party failed to speak out forcefully against the crime. The girl, who was Muslim, was gang raped and murdered by a group of Hindu men in January, and Hindu nationalists in the area rallied around the accused to protect them from prosecution.
In the wake of that attack, headlines in the Indian news media have been dominated by other horrific crimes against women, including the molestation last week of a teenage girl by a group of men who recorded it on video.
Public debates have focused on how courts should punish crimes of this nature, with the Indian government pushing for applying the death penalty to rapists of young children. The rape conviction rate has remained persistently low in India, and millions of cases are stuck in an overburdened court system.
Suhasini Raj contributed reporting from New Delhi.