By Saurabh Sharma and Anushree Fadnavis
NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - Protests erupted in several parts of India on Wednesday after the authorities had the body of a gang rape victim cremated at a ceremony her family said took place without their permission.
The 19-year-old victim from the Dalit community - the lowest rung of India's ancient caste system - was attacked and raped on Sept. 14 in a field near her home in Hathras district, 100 km (62-miles) from the capital, New Delhi, authorities said.
She died in hospital on Tuesday from injuries sustained during the attack. Police have arrested four men in connection with the rape.
The victim's brother told Reuters neither police nor government officials had sought the permission of the family to perform the funerary rite for the victim in her native village in Uttar Pradesh state at about 2 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Wednesday.
"We begged the authorities and police that we wanted to perform the funerary rite in the morning, but they did not listen to us and the rite was performed by them," he said.
"We were put behind the barricades they formed using the police force. We could not even see the face of our dead sister."
Praveen Kumar Laxar, a district magistrate, denied that the cremation had taken place without the family's permission: “With their consent only was she cremated. Her family members were present there. To make this allegation is absolutely wrong.”
The victim and her brother are not being identified due to laws against naming victims of sexual violence.
Police and government officials in the woman's home district did not respond to requests for comment.
The rape has caused outrage in India, where violence against women and those of lower castes is endemic. The victim's brother said the accused men were all members of an upper caste in the village.
Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, ranks as the most unsafe state for women in the country.
Protesters in the Uttar Pradesh city of Hathras were met by police who charged them with batons, a witness said.
Angry protesters, many wearing masks to ward off the novel coronavirus, scuffled with police in New Delhi.
"I'm here to show the UP government, and people that are ignorant towards caste-based privilege and caste-based violence, that enough is enough," said 26-year-old Shambhavi, as she and dozens of protesters chanted anti-government slogans in the centre of the capital.
In Kolkata, protesters burned a big picture of Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh who is also a hardline Hindu priest.
(Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Robert Birsel and Peter Graff)