On October 25, a 16-year old girl in Kolkata was gang raped by six men, and on her way back from filing a report with local police she was raped a second time by the same men.
Stories like these continue to shock the country especially since the country has seen much progress with respect to sexual violence against women recently. It has been over a year since India’s high profile New Delhi rape case, when a student was gang-raped aboard a moving bus on December 16, 2012.
The public outcry that followed the incident along with the government’s legislative response to sexual violence against women was perceived as a wave of change in India. Considered a major victory for the women’s movement in the country, a landmark bill was passed in March last year, containing harsher punishments for rapists.
However, numerous cases which were reported in the past year show that rape continues to plague Indian society – in many cases, unpunished.
The Kolkata incident has raised serious questions about corruption and/or incompetence in the country’s political system as well as law enforcement agencies.
Although the men were arrested, the victim and her family continued to receive threats from their associates.
Women’s rights campaigners and activists allege that the rapists had political patronage since they were linked to West Bengal’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress.
Enraged people took to the streets in India again on Wednesday after local police officers tried to forcibly cremate the girl’s body.
Initially it was reported that the girl tried to commit suicide by setting herself on fire, but Kolkata police revealed on Thursday that the teenager was actually set ablaze by the accused. She eventually succumbed to her injuries on New Year’s Eve, a day after Indians commemorated the death anniversary of the New Delhi rape victim.
It is being widely speculated that the police officers were assisting the perpetrators under political influence, especially after their unexplained haste to cremate the victim’s body.
“Police were in such a hurry to cremate her before daybreak that they landed up at the house of the bereaved family - with the body - at 2.30am and threatened to break down their door unless they were given the death certificate that would allow cremation. When the girl's father refused, police officers allegedly told him to go back to Bihar's Samastipur. A police team tormented the family all night,” the Times of India reported.
“This is a classic case of a nexus between the police, the perpetrators of the crime, the rapist, and the Trinamool leader," CNN IBN quoted Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammed Salim.
The family also accused the medical staff of negligence that resulted in the victim’s demise. On Thursday, West Bengal police and doctors confirmed that the murdered teenager was pregnant at the time of her death.