India's federal authorities to take over probe into alleged gang rape of Dalit woman amid public outcry

The woman's death has sparked protests by members of Dalit communities, rights activists and opposition political parties across India.

Protests After Death Of Hathras Rape Victim In New Delhi

Activists, members of various political bodies and others during a candle march against the alleged gang rape of a young woman in Uttar Pradesh. Source: Getty Images

This article contains references to rape and sexual assault.

India's federal investigators will take over the probe into the alleged gang rape and murder of a young Dalit woman that has sparked nationwide outrage and days of protests.

The 19-year-old victim from the marginalised Dalit caste was found seriously injured in mid-September outside her village in northern India's Uttar Pradesh state and died this week in a New Delhi hospital.

Five senior police officers have already been suspended over the investigation amid criticism of law enforcement's actions - including the cremation of the woman's body in the middle of the night against the wishes of her family.

The chief minister of the state - India's most populous with 200 million people - announced the decision to transfer the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation late on Saturday.

"We are committed to giving the strictest punishment to the people responsible for this incident," Yogi Adityanath, who is from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wrote on Twitter.

Police have arrested four high-caste men on the charges of gang rape and murder.

Indian activists protest against the alleged gang rape in Bhopal on 1 October.
Source: AP

Local authorities barricaded the village after the cremation to block opposition politicians and media from meeting the victim's family. 

The decision was reversed on Saturday after widespread criticism.

The involvement of leaders of the opposition Congress party, Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, in several demonstrations has sparked accusations from the BJP that they were politicising the issue.

The young woman's death comes months after four men were hanged for the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi, in a case that shook the nation.

An average of nearly 90 rapes were reported in India every day last year, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau, but large numbers are thought to go unreported.

India's 200 million low-caste Dalits have long faced discrimination, and campaigners say attacks have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.

Published 4 October 2020 at 9:05pm, updated 4 October 2020 at 9:09pm
Source: AFP - SBS