Sat, Apr 14, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Indian police probe rape of teen

SMEAR JOB?Kuldeep Singh Sengar’s lawyer said the case was a conspiracy to harm the political career of the Uttar Pradesh state lawmaker — a member of Modi’s party

Reuters, NEW DELHI

Demonstrators hold a candlelight vigil at the India Gate war memorial in New Delhi early yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Indian federal police yesterday began questioning a lawmaker from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party accused of raping a teenager nine months ago, after the country’s main opposition party held a midnight vigil demanding justice.

The vigil led by Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi also voiced outrage over another attack, the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in a Hindu-dominated area of Jammu and Kashmir state in January.

Horrifying details were released in a charge sheet filed by police earlier this week, raising the risk of escalating civil unrest in a region where security forces are fighting separatist militants.

“Like millions of Indians, my heart hurts tonight,” Gandhi said on Twitter after addressing an estimated 5,000 people at the candlelight vigil at the India Gate war memorial.

“India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does,” he added.

The rape case involving a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has given opposition parties ammunition to attack its administration of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous and crime-ridden state.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asked the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation to take over the case after the state’s police were criticized for not acting sooner on the victim’s complaint.

A bureau spokesman said Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a long-standing member of the state legislature, was being questioned in relation to the rape in the city of Unnao. He has not been arrested.

Sengar’s lawyer has said his client, whose election affidavit last year put his age at 50, was innocent and the case was a conspiracy to harm his political career.

Ministers have insisted that justice would be done, no matter who committed the crime, while defending the government’s record on fighting violence against women.

“We are here to safeguard the interest of our daughters, they are the daughters of the nation,” Indian Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Mahesh Sharma told reporters on Thursday.

Indian Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development planned to propose the death penalty for rape of children younger than 12.

The maximum punishment under the current Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is life imprisonment.

The death of a young woman following a brutal gang rape in Delhi in 2012 sparked an outpouring of national shame and anger, forcing the then-Indian National Congress-led government to tighten laws on crimes against women.

However, the latest crime records showed that India registered about 40,000 rape cases in 2016, compared with 25,000 cases in 2012.

Rights activists have said thousands more go unreported because of the stigma.

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