Police in India have brought murder charges against two men suspected of gang-raping a 16-year-old girl in West Bengal. It had previously been reported that the girl had died of her injuries after setting herself on fire on December 23, two months after she was allegedly raped on two separate occasions by a group of men. However it has emerged that in her dying statement to police, she told them that two of the rape suspects had set her alight.
According to doctors, the girl was pregnant at the time of her death on New Year’s Eve.
“We have filed a murder case against the two main accused on the basis of the final statement of the girl in which she had said that she was set on fire,” said local police official Anant Nag.
It’s alleged that the girl was first gang-raped on October 25 in Madhyamgram near Kolkata in West Bengal state. She was then said to have been subjected to an identical assault by the same men after reporting the first attack to police. Six men were arrested in connection with the two attacks.
Then, on December 23, the girl’s family alleges that an associate of the arrested gang visited her house on December 23 and threatened her with “dire consequences” if she did not withdraw her complaint to police. She was set on fire later the same day, sustaining 65 percent burns, before succumbing to her injuries a week later.
It is understood that the family of the victim has demanded the death penalty for the offenders.
The case has sparked large protests in Kolkata, with much anger directed towards the police. The victim’s father has alleged that police officers seized her body and tried to cremate her without the family’s permission. He also claims police told him to relocate his family from the area.
Members of political parties joined thousands of local residents in protest marches on New Year’s Day. The leader of the Communist opposition party in the Bengal assembly, Suryakanta Mishra, told reporters:
“Soon after Tuesday night’s incident where police held up the body and tormented the victim’s family, I had a word with the home secretary. I told him, instead of standing beside the victim’s family, police are practically playing the role of goons.
“We believe without orders from the top, police could not have acted the way they did. Police are even trying to downplay the incident as evident from the fact that they registered the second rape complaint as molestation. What is striking is the silence of the chief minister on the issue. She only gave her wishes for the New Year but conveniently sidestepped the brutal incident.”
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile instances of sexual violence in India. There were widespread demonstrations following the fatal gang-rape and beating of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi in December 2012. Four men were sentenced to death by hanging for that crime last year.