India gang rape inquiry stepped up

The BBC's Divya Arya, at the scene of the crime, says the tree where the girls were found hanged has become a symbolic landmark

The chief minister of a northern Indian state where two teenage cousins were gang raped and hanged has recommended a federal inquiry into the incident.

The move comes after alleged police inaction sparked outrage in Uttar Pradesh state.

Three suspected attackers have been detained, along with two policemen accused of dereliction of duty and criminal conspiracy.

The girls were found hanged from a tree in Badaun district earlier in the week.

The victims' families say it took police more than 12 hours to respond to reports they were missing.

The father of one victim earlier told the BBC he was ridiculed by police when he sought help in finding his daughter.

He said that when policemen found out he was from a lower caste, they "refused to look for my girl".

Deep divisions

"The chief minister has decided to recommend a probe into the Badaun incident as demanded by family members of the victims," the office of Akhilesh Yadav said on Saturday.

He had come under attack for earlier remarks mocking female journalists who asked about the rising number of rape cases at a news briefing.

"You are safe, why are you bothered?" the chief minister had said.

Saturday's announcement follows a pledge by the government to set up a fast-track court to deal with the case.

Sanjoy Majumder reports: ''Womens' groups are particularly outraged''

Divisions between India's castes run deep, and violence is often used by upper castes to instil fear in lower castes, correspondents say.

Although both the victim and the accused in the latest case belonged to a group known as "Other Backward Classes", the victims were lower in that hierarchy.

The girls, thought to have been 14 and 15, went missing on Tuesday night. They had apparently gone out to relieve themselves as they had no toilet at home.

Their bodies were discovered the following day. A post-mortem examination confirmed multiple sexual assaults and death due to hanging.

Campaigners have highlighted the lack of sanitation in rural areas as being a risk to women's security as well as their health, as they are often attacked when having to go out to use the toilet, particularly at night.

Scrutiny of sexual violence in India has grown since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus.

The government tightened laws on sexual violence last year after widespread protests following the attack.

Fast-track courts were brought to the fore to deal with rape and the death penalty was also brought in for the most extreme cases.

Some women's groups argue that the low conviction rate for rape should be challenged with more effective policing rather than stiffer sentences.

Map
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Rape cases that have shocked India
  • 23 January 2014: Thirteen men held in West Bengal in connection with the gang rape of a woman, allegedly on orders of village elders who objected to her relationship with a man
  • 4 April 2014: A court sentences three men to hang for raping a 23-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai last year
  • 15 January 2014: A Danish woman is allegedly gang raped after losing her way near her hotel in Delhi
  • 17 September 2013 : Five youths held in Assam for allegedly gang-raping a 10-year-old girl
  • 4 June 2013: A 30-year-old American woman gang-raped in Himachal Pradesh
  • 30 April 2013: A five-year-old girl dies two weeks after being raped in Madhya Pradesh
  • 16 December 2012: Student gang raped on Delhi bus, sparking nationwide protests and outrage; she later dies of her injuries
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