The family of a 19-year-old woman in India have accused police of forcibly cremating her body after she died of rape.
The victim was reportedly raped by four men in Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, on September 14. She died two weeks later in a New Delhi hospital. She was Dalit, a still marginalized caste in India known historically as “untouchable”.
Heartbreaking details of the woman’s injuries have been widely reported in the Indian press, as well as on top social media, drawing new attention to the omnipresence of the country rape culture, especially against Dalit women.
Before she died, the woman named four men from her village as her rapists. The four men were reportedly arrested on September 27.
In the early hours of September 30, the body of the woman was brought back from New Delhi to her village. Her family allege that police refused to hand her body over to her so they could perform the final rites, but forcibly – and hastily – cremated her in the middle of the night.
The woman’s brother gave an interview to Indian Express at 3.30am on Wednesday. “It looks like my sister was cremated; the police are not telling us anything, “the brother told the Express.” We begged them to let us bring his body back inside the house one last time, but they didn’t listen to us. “
Video footage from the cremation ground, which has gone viral on Twitter, shows a lone pyre burning in the dark with no family members present, as police remove reporters from the scene.
Hathras town police did not respond to BuzzFeed News calls. In one Tweeter On Wednesday, the department said members of the woman’s family were present at the cremation grounds.
The horrific incident outraged Indians, with activists and students gathered to protest police actions in New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, and opposition party leaders calling for the resignation of the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reportedly called on the state to ensure that “the strictest measures” are taken against rapists of women.