Police have used water cannons to disperse hundreds of women protesting against a rise in violence against women in the Indian state where two teenagers were gang-raped and later found hanging from a tree. The protesters in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state, were demonstrating outside the office of the top elected official, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, demanding that he crack down on an increasing number of rape and other attacks on women and girls. Hundreds of police officers, including female officers, pushed and shoved the protesters before deploying water cannons to disperse them.
The protesters also demanded that the government curb police indifference, which they said was encouraging attacks on women. Police failed to take any action when the father of one of the girls reported to police that the two cousins were missing. Two police officers were fired for dereliction of duty after the girls were found gang-raped and killed.
One of their fathers said police took more than 12 hours to respond to his report that the girls were missing. He said if the police had acted promptly, they could have been rescued. Mr Yadav has recommended a federal inquiry, but his government has been widely accused of a lackadaisical approach toward women’s safety.
India has a long history of tolerance of sexual violence, but the attack on the girls has caused outrage across the nation. Activists and ordinary people said it was as if nothing had changed since the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus in New Delhi, India’s capital.
The nationwide outcry following that attack led the federal government to push through legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalising voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for officers to refuse to register cases when complaints are made.