A day after two Dalit teenage sisters were found hanged from a tree in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh, police said on Thursday they were allegedly raped and strangled before being hanged. They added that six defendants were arrested and charged under sections of the 2012 Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO). One of the accused was arrested after an encounter, they also said.
Police identified the six defendants as Chotu, Junaid, Suhail, Hafizul Rehman, Karimuddin and Arif. “All the defendants and the girls belong to the same village. Chotu, son of Chetram, was known to the girls in the past and he was the one who introduced the girls to three of the accused. Later, when the girls started to force them into marriage, the defendants strangled and hanged them,” said Lakhimpur Kheri SP Sanjeev Suman. Both girls were raped before the murder, police said.
The SP said that in addition to Chotu aka Gautam, three of the other defendants known to the girls were identified as Suhail son of Islamuddin, Hafizul Rehman aka Majhalka and Junaid. “Junaid was arrested after an encounter on Thursday morning and has a gunshot wound in one of his legs,” he said, adding that the three called two other friends of theirs from the same village – Karimuddin aka DD and Arif, son of Ahmad Hussain – to help them to help hang the girls from the tree.
लखीमपुलखीमपु खीखी में बेटियों हत्या औदुष्कम्म आ आ आ से पुलिस मुठभेड़ मुठभेड़ जूनैद लगी गोली, 6 गिगि्तार
— आदित्य तिवारी / Aditya Tiwari (@aditytiwarilive) September 15, 2022
The victims’ mother said that while she was bathing around 3:00 pm Wednesday, she overheard Chotu, who travels frequently in her area, calling her daughters. Soon three boys came and started dragging their daughters away, she added. “I tried to stop them and ran after them, but they beat me up and left. I screamed and ran back to ask the villagers for help,” the mother said.
The girls’ families have requested the death penalty for the accused in hopes of preventing such crimes in the future. “All we want is phansi (death penalty) for the accused, that’s all,” the victim’s brother said.
— ANI UP/Uttarakhand (@ANINewsUP) September 15, 2022
The FIR was registered late Wednesday night under Sections 302 (Murder), 323 (Voluntary Injury), 452 (Trespassing) and 378 (Theft) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 (Sexual Assault) of the Protection Right Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO).
On Wednesday night, as the news broke, angry locals protested and blocked a road. The blockade was only lifted after senior police officials intervened, promising a thorough investigation and crackdown on those responsible.
UP Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak promised to crack down on those accused. “The government will take such a measure that the souls of their generations to come will also tremble. There will be justice,” he told ANI news agency.
In response to the incident, Mayawati, former prime minister of Uttar Pradesh and party leader of Bahujan Samaj, highlighted an issue that she believes is a law and order issue in the state. “This incident exposes the government’s claims regarding law and order and women’s safety etc. in UP,” Mayawati tweeted Thursday. “In cases of such heinous crimes, including Hathras, most criminals are fearless because of the veil.”
Congress Secretary-General Priyanka Gandhi Vadra condemned the incident, highlighting the increasing number of crimes against women in the state. “The incident of the murder of two sisters in Lakhimpur (UP) is heartbreaking,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “False advertising in newspapers and on television every day does not improve law and order. After all, why are the heinous crimes against women increasing in UP?”