KOLKATA, INDIA – An Indian teenager was gang-raped in two separate attacks and then died after being set on fire, sparking protests in the eastern city of Kolkata, police said Thursday.
The 16-year-old was assaulted first on Oct. 26 and then again the day after by a group of more than six men near her family’s home in Madhyagram town, about 25 km north of Kolkata.
The second rape occurred as she was returning home after reporting the first attack at a police station.
She was then set on fire on Dec. 23 and died in a state-run hospital late on New Year’s Eve, police said.
“She gave us a dying declaration in front of the health officials that she was set on fire by two persons close to the accused when she was alone at home on Dec. 23,” local policeman Nimbala Santosh Uttamrao said.
Police made their first arrests Wednesday, two months after the initial crime, local police chief Rajiv Kumar said.
“The accused tried to kill my daughter by setting her on fire to hush up their crimes,” the victim’s father, a migrant taxi driver from Bihar, India’s poorest state, said.
Neither he nor the victim can be named for legal reasons.
Several hundred activists in Kolkata protested the crime, which was shocking in its brutality, even after a year when sex crimes were heavily covered in India.
The rampant rape, assault and harassment of women became a hot topic after the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in New Delhi in December 2012 sparked nationwide outrage.
Tough laws have since been passed to punish rapists, but activists say rape victims in India often face severe threats and intimidation from their attackers afterward, while police often discourage them from lodging complaints.