India rape victim dies after being ‘burned alive by gang of men’

Matt Drake
Relatives demand a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the rape of a 23-year-old victim, who died in a New Delhi hospital on Friday, after she was set on fire by a gang of men: Reuters

A rape victim in India, whose alleged rapist stands accused of setting her on fire while she was on the way to court, has died in hospital, the doctor treating her has said.

The 23-year-old was on her way to board a train in the Unnao district of northern Uttar Pradesh state, to attend a court hearing on Thursday.

She was doused with kerosene and set on fire by a gang of men, including her alleged rapist, police say.

It is the second prominent case of violence against women in the past two weeks and has sparked public outrage in India.

Dr Shalabh Kumar, the head of burns and plastic department at New Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital said: “She suffered 95 per cent burns.”

He added that the woman’s windpipe was burnt and “toxic and hot fumes” had filled her lungs.

The victim was airlifted to New Delhi for treatment but she died on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The woman had filed a complaint with Unnao police in March alleging she had been raped at gunpoint in December last year, police documents showed.

She named two local men, one of whom was arrested by police while the other absconded.

Having been subsequently jailed, the alleged rapist was released last week after securing bail, police officer SK Bhagat said in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

On Thursday, the rape victim is thought to have been seized by five men, allegedly including the two people she had named in her complaint, and beaten, stabbed and set on fire, according to local media, citing her statement to police.

Following the attack she walked nearly a kilometre, seeking help before finally calling the police herself, according to Aaj Taj TV news channel.

All five of the accused have been arrested and are in 14-day judicial custody, Vikrant Vir, superintendent of police said.

A fast-track court would hear the case and the guilty would not be spared, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said.

In India, lengthy trials, often the result of fewer courts and judges, tend to delay convictions, leaving poor, disillusioned victims with little money and patience to pursue the case.

Also, long trials result in bails to the accused who often intimidate victims and their witnesses and try tampering with evidence.

The victim’s father has alleged that his family was harassed and threatened by the family of the accused.

He added: “We tried to seek protection as the accused and their family kept threatening my daughter and my family, but we received little help from the government.

“Now, every single accused should be either hanged or shot dead.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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