Indian politician in Narendra Modi’s party ‘raped girl, 16’ – but police ‘only acted after her dad was beaten to death in custody and she threatened to burn herself’
Police had refused to take action when the victim’s family reported the rape. Her father, who kept pursuing her case, was detained by police and severely beaten. He later died from his injuries
A politician from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party was charged on Wednesday with raping a teenager whose plight was ignored by police until she tried to set herself on fire, embarrassing the government amid a spate of sexual violence that has stirred protests throughout the country.
The Central Bureau of Investigation charged Kuldeep Singh Sengar with the 2017 rape of a 16-year-old girl whose father was later beaten in custody allegedly by Sengar’s brother and later died.
The veteran lawmaker’s case has strong political overtones with critics accusing Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh state of hindering judicial action against the veteran parliamentarian.
The sense of impunity enjoyed by Sengar, a powerful BJP state lawmaker, and his brother has sparked revulsion across India.
Sengar, who like his brother was not charged until the crime made national headlines, had smiled and bragged on television that he and his family would be proven innocent.
But CBI spokesman Abhishek Dayal told Agence France-Presse that Sengar had been formally charged with rape, criminal conspiracy and child sex offences.
The victim accused Sengar of assaulting her in June 2017 at his home in Unnao district in Uttar Pradesh, a populous and notoriously lawless state.
Police had refused to take action when the victim’s family reported the rape. Her father, who kept pursuing her case, was detained by police and severely beaten. He later died from his injuries.
In April, nearly a year after her assault, the girl tried to set herself on fire outside the home of Uttar Pradesh leader and BJP stalwart Yogi Adityanath.
The chief minister ordered an investigation into the crime. With opposition groups joining protests and vigils in cities across India calling for tougher action, the case was handed over to federal investigators.
The CBI last week charged Sengar’s brother Atul Singh Sengar, and four others, with the murder of the girl’s father.
In a statement, the bureau of investigation said the charges were based on its inquiry into a complaint submitted by the teenager’s mother alleging that her daughter, a minor, was taken to the residence of the lawmaker by a local woman and raped there.
Sengar’s lawyer, R.K Singh, said in April his client was innocent and the case amounted to a conspiracy to harm his political career.
The girl’s ordeal went public as India was reeling from the rape and murder of a nomadic Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir whose attackers were defended by local BJP figures.
The two crimes underscored India’s atrocious record on rape, prompting protesters to take to city streets in numbers not seen since the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student in Delhi.
That horrific killing drew global attention and unleashed public anger in India about rampant sexual violence against women.
Although it led to an overhaul of India’s rape laws, high numbers of assaults persist. Nearly 40,000 rape cases are reported every year, according to official figures.
Campaigners say the real number is higher, with victims wary either of how their complaints will be dealt with or the social stigma attached to sex crimes.
With reporting from Agence France-Presse and Reuters