LUCKNOW/DELHI, India (Reuters) – Indian police briefly detained several opposition leaders on Thursday as they headed toward the site where a low-caste young woman died this week after being gang-raped, the latest such attack to whip up nationwide anger and protests.
Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, siblings and leaders of the main opposition Congress Party, were blocked and arrested by police as they tried to drive then walk to see the dead woman’s family in Hathras, a district of Uttar Pradesh state about 100 km (60 miles) from Delhi.
Video footage from ANI news agency showed Rahul Gandhi jostling with police before falling to the ground.
The Gandhis and 250 other Congress workers had now been released, Uttar Pradesh Congress Chief Ajay Kumar Lallu told Reuters.
After clashes in the area on Wednesday, authorities said on Thursday they were barring gatherings of five or more people and would block politicians from the area.
In the latest case of violence against women to grab headlines in India, the 19-year-old woman from the Dalit community died from injuries on Tuesday after being attacked on September 14 near her home, authorities said. The Dalit community often faces violence and discrimination.
Police have arrested four men for rape.
India is one of the world’s most dangerous places for women, with a rape occurring every 15 minutes, according to federal data – figures that rights groups say vastly underestimate the scale of the problem.
Protesters and security forces clashed on Wednesday after police cremated the woman’s body. The victim’s brother told Reuters the cremation was against the wishes of her family, who had wanted to perform funeral rites. Local officials deny this.
Twenty-five people were arrested over the unrest, according to a police information report. A witness told Reuters police had wielded batons.
The victim and her brother are not being identified due to laws against naming victims of sexual violence. The four men arrested were all from a higher caste, her brother told Reuters.
Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of more than 200 million people and is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, ranks as particularly unsafe for women.
Opposition leaders have highlighted several other violent incidents in the state in recent days, including allegations of a similar gang rape of a Dalit woman in Balrampur.
Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow and Alasdair Pal in New Delhi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Andrew Cawthorne and Frances Kerry
Photo: Demonstrators are detained by police during a protests after the death of a rape victim, at Delhi University, in New Delhi, India, October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis