Two police officers suspected of gang-raping and killing teenage sisters before hanging their bodies from a mango tree have been arrested in India. A third man was also held, according to reports, after the discovery of two bodies renewed public outrage over sexual violence in the country. Villagers in Katra found the bodies hours after the girls, aged 14 and 15, disappeared from fields they used because their homes had no toilet. Hundreds of people spent Wednesday in silent protest over alleged police inaction in the case.
Indian TV channels filmed villagers sitting under the girls’ hanging bodies, preventing authorities from removing them until the suspects were arrested. Police responded by making three arrests – and four more suspects are being sought. Autopsies confirmed the girls were gang-raped and strangled before being hanged, police Superintendent Atul Saxena reportedly told AP.
A police station chief has been suspended, according to the news agency, after allegedly ignoring a complaint the girls were missing. India tightened its rape laws last year – introducing the death penalty for gang rape – following the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in New Delhi.
The case sparked nationwide protests. A rape is committed every 22 minutes in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people – and activists say many more cases go unreported because of a culture of tolerance.