Hathras gang rape: India police suspended amid public outcry

Five senior police officers have been suspended over their handling of an investigation into the alleged gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman that has sparked outrage across India and triggered days of protests.

The seriously injured teenager from the Dalit caste, formerly the “untouchables”, was found in mid-September outside her village in northern Uttar Pradesh state and died this week in a New Delhi hospital.

The police have arrested four higher-caste men on charges of gang rape and murder.

But the police have faced criticism for attempting to destroy evidence by cremating the woman’s body in the middle of the night – reportedly using petrol – against the wishes of her family and religious custom.

The teenager’s body was cremated in an open field on Wednesday (21:30 GMT on Tuesday) in Hathras, about 200km (125 miles) from the Indian capital, in the presence of police and other officials.

“We kept shouting from inside the house but they did not listen to us and cremated her using petrol. Petrol is never used for the last rites but why would they care?”

The family said they wanted to see the girl’s face once more before her cremation, but the authorities refused.

“The last time we saw her face was just after the post-mortem [autopsy] was done. They did not even accord us the basic dignity of allowing us to watch her face one last time,” her brother said.

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