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Water cannons deployed as hundreds in India protest gang-rape, killing of 2 teen girls

Water cannons deployed as hundreds in India protest gang-rape, killing of 2 teen girls
Indian police have used water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters rallying against last week’s rape and murder of two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh state. Meanwhile, reports say another woman has been found dead after allegedly being gang-raped.

The body of the woman, who was believed to be 22 years old, was recovered Saturday from a field in the village of Aithpura, not far from the city of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, the Times of India reported, citing police sources.

According to a post-mortem report on Monday, she was gang-raped and later strangled. Acid detected in the victim's stomach indicates that she was forced to drink it before being murdered. The woman also had acid and petrol poured onto her face in an apparent attempt to conceal her identity.

Investigators are considering several possible reasons for the attack, and have not ruled out that it could be related to an honor killing or prostitution.

Adding controversy to the story, The Independent newspaper, citing senior investigating officer Supt Ravindra Gaur, reports that the post-mortem examination results show that the woman was not raped.

Law enforcement is now trying to establish the identity of the victim – the latest in a chain of fatal brutalities against women in India.

Indian sctivists from the Social Unity Center of India (SUCI) shout slogans against the state government during a protest against the alleged rape of a schoolgirl by three teenage boys in Kolkata on June 2, 2014. (AFP Photo / Dibyangshu Sarkar)

Last week, in a crime that outraged the nation, two teenage cousins –reportedly aged 14 and 15 – were murdered in the small village of Katra Shahadatganj, in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district. The girls went missing on Tuesday evening when they went into nearby fields to relieve themselves, as they had no bathroom at home. Their bodies were found the following day, hanging by their necks on a mango tree. The post-mortem examination confirmed they had been gang-raped before the killing.

The victims’ families said the police ignored the missing persons report and discriminated against them due to their low-caste status. The two cousins were from Dalits, the very bottom of the Hindu social structure, also known as the “untouchables,” according to the Associated Press.Meanwhile, the three alleged attackers and police officers held on suspicion of attempting to cover up the brutal murders belong to a dominant caste in the area - the Yadav community.

On Monday, hundreds of demonstrators staged a protest rally in the city of Lucknow, outside the office of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav – a member of the state’s ruling Samajwadi party. Protesters, many of whom were women, accused the party of negligence over an increasing crime rate against women. They demanded the dismissal of the state government and the imposition of direct, presidential rule, reported Reuters. Police fired water cannon to disperse the crowd.

Supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shout slogans as police use a water cannon to stop them from moving towards the office of Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, during a protest against recent rape and hanging of two girls, in Lucknow June 2, 2014. (Reuters / Pawan Kumar)

The demonstrators were members of the Republican Party of India, which fights for the rights of Scheduled castes.

For the Dalits, reservation is in name only. If such atrocities and injustices are done to them then what is the use? If the mentality of the people has not changed in society, if the caste system does not disappear - this is the root cause of the atrocities,” one member said, as quoted by AP.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, one woman gets raped every 22 minutes in India. The situation does not seem to be improving, despite increased scrutiny on sexual crimes following the December 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a Delhi bus. The deadly incident triggered mass protests across India, calling for an end to the mistreatment of women. Still, many in India believe that it is the fault of females if they get attacked, accusing them of dressing and behaving provocatively.

Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demonstrators argue with policewomen during a protest against the recent gang-rape and murder of two girls, in Lucknow on June 2, 2014. (AFP Photo / Str)