International

Indian teen dies after being gang raped twice and set on fire

Protesters demand accountability and justice for 16-year-old victim who reported assaults to police

The family of a 16-year-old who was gang-raped twice, then set on fire mourns on Wednesday, a day after the girl died.
Sonali Pal Chaudhury/NurPhot/REX/AP

After surviving two separate gang rapes on consecutive days in October, an Indian teenager died from being set on fire, sparking protests in the eastern city of Kolkata and the capital, police said Thursday.

The 16-year-old, who died Tuesday night, was first assaulted on Oct. 26 and then again the next day by a group of more than six men near her family's home in the town of Madhyagram, 15 miles north of Kolkata.

The second rape occurred as she was returning home after reporting the first attack at a police station.

She was then set on fire on Dec. 23 and died in a state-run hospital late on New Year's Eve, police said.

"She gave us a dying declaration in front of the health officials that she was set on fire by two persons close to the accused when she was alone at home on Dec. 23," local policeman Nimbala Santosh Uttamrao told Agence France-Presse.

Police made their first arrests on Wednesday, two months after the initial crime, local police chief Rajiv Kumar told AFP.

"The accused tried to kill my daughter by setting her on fire to hush up their crimes," the victim's father told AFP. He is a migrant taxi driver from Bihar, India's poorest state.

Neither he nor the victim can be named for legal reasons.

Condolence rally Wednesday for alleged gang-raped teen who died after being set ablaze.
A condolence rally was held Wednesday for the teen who died after being set ablaze.
Sonali Pal Chaudhury/NurPhot/REX/AP

Several hundred activists on Wednesday protested in Kolkata over the crime, notable for its shocking brutality even after a year in which several brutal sex crimes have been widely reported in India.

Activists also gathered in the capital New Delhi on Thursday, accusing the West Bengal government and police of failing to act swiftly after the girl lodged her initial complaint.

"We strongly believe that if your government had acted against the criminals ... the subsequent horrific events would have been prevented and the young woman's life could have been saved," the All India Democratic Women's Association, which organized the protest, and other activists wrote in a letter to the state's chief minister.

"The father of the girl ... had brought his family to Kolkata a few months back precisely because they had thought that the daughter would get a better education in Kolkata," the letter said.

A top state official said authorities would move quickly to ensure those responsible for the girl's rape and death were brought to justice, the Press Trust of India reported.

"All the accused against whom there are allegations have been arrested. We are committed to zero tolerance for sexual violence," West Bengal chief secretary Sanjay Mitra told reporters in Kolkata.

The rape, assault and harassment of women in India has been highlighted in the past 12 months after the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in New Delhi in December 2012 sparked nationwide outrage.

Parliament has since passed tougher laws to punish rapists.

Activists say rape victims often face severe threats and intimidation from their attackers, while police often discourage them from lodging complaints.

Wire services

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