India’s federal police will investigate the alleged gang rape of a young woman in northern Uttar Pradesh state whose death sparked nationwide protests, the local government said in a statement on Saturday.
The 19-year-old Dalit woman died of her injuries earlier this week, triggering protests by both opposition political parties and the public in New Delhi and elsewhere against atrocities against a community often ostracized under India’s centuries-old caste system.
India is one of the world’s most dangerous places for women, with a rape occurring on average every 15 minutes based on federal data. In December 2012, the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman sparked nationwide outrage and led to a tough new anti-rape law.
The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, has asked federal police, the Central Bureau of Investigation, to investigate the alleged rape, which occurred in its Hathras district, a government statement said.
Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has faced criticism in recent days for not allowing media and opposition parties to speak with the family of the dead woman.
Public criticism grew after the family of the victim said her body had been cremated by police without their consent, allegation officials deny.
On Saturday, hundreds of police officers barricaded a highway connecting the capital New Delhi to Hathras. Several opposition leaders also drove out to meet the victim’s family.
In India’s eastern Kolkata and Bhubaneswar cities, political parties and women organizations marched in protest against the incident and demanded justice for the woman, video footage from ANI news agency showed.