Indian woman who was allegedly raped dies after being set on fire while heading to court

An alleged rape victim in northern India who was set on fire on her way to a court hearing in the case she filed died in a hospital in New Delhi, officials said Saturday.

The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men, including two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year who were out of custody on bail.

Five men were arrested in connection with the burn attack.

The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Shalab Kumar, head of the hospital’s burn unit.

Yogi Adityanath, the state’s chief minister, said the case would be heard in a fast track court and the “strictest of punishment will be given to the culprits.”

Priyanka Gandhi, general secretary of the opposition Congress party, faulted the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for failing to provide the woman with security, even after a similar case in the state in which a woman who accused a BJP legislator of rape was severely injured in a vehicle hit-and-run incident.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, arrives to meet the relatives of the 23-year-old rape victim on Saturday. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is known for its poor record regarding crimes against women. According to the most recent available official crime records, police registered more than 4,200 cases of rape in the state in 2017 — the most in India.

Government figures for 2017 also show that police registered 33,658 cases of rape in the country. But the real figure is believed to be far higher as many women in India don’t report cases to police due to fear.

Indian courts also seem to be struggling to deal with these cases. Data shows that more than 90 per cent of cases of crimes against women are pending in city courts.

Suspects in separate rape case killed

The burn victim’s death came on the same day police in the southern state of Telangana fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian after investigators took them to the crime scene. Their deaths drew both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country.

People hold a candlelight vigil in support of sexual assault victims and against the alleged rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad. On the same day the 23-year-old rape victim died, police shot and killed four men who were suspects, but had not been charged, in the attack on the 27-year-old veterinarian. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images)

The woman’s burned corpse was found last week by a passerby near the city of Hyderabad, India’s tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.

Police took the four suspects, who had not been charged with any crime, to the scene to help them locate the victim’s phone and other items, officials said. They said the men grabbed police firearms and began shooting, and were killed when police returned fire.

The Telangana High Court ordered authorities to preserve the bodies of the suspects and submit a video of the autopsies ahead of a court hearing set for Monday.

Separately, the National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India’s Parliament, sent a fact-finding mission to the crime scene and mortuary where the suspects’ bodies were held on Saturday amid questions from opposition legislators about the circumstances of the suspects’ deaths.