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India rains ‘halt’ exhumation of bodies of gang-raped girls CBI team on site reviewing situation

LUCKNOW, India, July 20, (AFP): India’s monsoon rains Sunday halted the exhumation of the bodies of two girls who were gang-raped and lynched, crimes that reignited fury over sexual violence in the country. Authorities began digging up the bodies of the cousins, aged 12 and 14, on Saturday after local police in northern India cast doubt on whether they were sexually assaulted in late May. Local police have claimed the girls may have been the victims of an honour killing. But the families of the girls have accused officers of failing to act quickly in the case because they are from a lower caste.

 India’s federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) ordered a new autopsy after taking over the inquiry into the deaths of the girls, who have been buried on the banks of the Ganges river in Uttar Pradesh state. The CBI was now mulling how to resume the exhumation after the graves were submerged by rising water levels caused by the rains. “The CBI team is on the site reviewing the situation to plan the future course of action as the river is in spate,” local police senior superintendent L.R. Kumar told AFP.

 “The process can practically resume only when the water level recedes,” said local district magistrate Shambhu Nath. India has been trying to restore its battered reputation after a spate of cases of violence against women. But public outrage was reignited by the deaths of the girls who were found hanging near their homes in Baduan district. They had gone outside at night to relieve themselves because, like most homes in their impoverished village, theirs did not have a toilet.

Five men have been arrested over the incident. India brought in tougher laws last year against sexual offenders after the fatal gangrape of a student in New Delhi in December 2012, an attack that drew international condemnation. But the legislation, which was also designed to educate and sensitise police on rape cases, has failed to stem the tide of violence.

Police said Sunday they have arrested one man over the attempted rape and murder of a woman in the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow last week. Her battered and naked body was found dumped near a school. Additional director of police Sutapa Sanyal told reporters the woman was “brutally assaulted” when she resisted the attacker’s attempts to rape her. In the southern city of Bangalore, thousands of demonstrators marched on Saturday to demand arrests in the case of a six-year-old girl allegedly raped in a school. Parents accused school authorities of trying to shield suspects and hush up the crime

 

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