India has marked the 151st anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth against a backdrop of shocking rapes that have convulsed the nation. Amid outrage over the gang rape and death of a young woman in Hathras, a town in northern Uttar Pradesh, another similar case has been reported from the state.
In the first case, the 20-year-old woman died on Tuesday, days after being savagely assaulted by a group of men.
The woman was cutting grass to feed the family’s five milk buffalos in Hathras when she was taken away by a group of upper-caste men.
Her tongue was cut and her spinal cord was broken after she was dragged by her neck with a rope.
In the second incident, some 500 km from Hathras, a 22-year-old woman from the Dalit community, the country’s lowest caste, died after being allegedly raped and assaulted by two men in Balrampur. Both have been arrested.
She was reportedly abducted while on her way back from college where she had gone to pay her fees.
A post-mortem report said the woman sustained 10 injuries – both contusions and abrasions – on various parts of her body, suggesting the woman was assaulted with a blunt object, the police said.
Her death has put more pressure on the ruling Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state, where both deaths have caused widespread outrage.
Political parties said under the BJP government, women, especially from the Dalit community, faced unprecedented violence.
“The law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has completely deteriorated,” said Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi.
“It’s highly sad that so many daughters are being sexually assaulted and we have not been able to protect them. The guilty must be hanged at the earliest,” said Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The Congress party signalled prolonged protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Both Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka were stopped by the police from entering Hathras to pay respects to the bereaved family.
He invoked Mahatma Gandhi on the Father of the Nation’s 151st birth anniversary to declare that he is not afraid of anyone.
“I will not fear anyone in the world. I will not bow down to anyone’s injustice. I will win the untruth with the truth and I can bear all the sufferings while opposing the untruth,” said Rahul Gandhi.
In its statistics for 2019, the National Crime Records Bureau showed that on an average, almost 10 Dalit women are raped every day across India. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan top the list of crimes.
Civil society activists and women’s’ groups have called for a national protest day on Sunday called #IfWeDoNotRise against the gruesome murders.