A day after two minor Dalit sisters were found hanging from a tree in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district, police Thursday said they were allegedly raped and strangled before being hanged. They added six accused were arrested and charged under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012. One of the accused was caught following an encounter, they also said.
The police identified the six accused as Chotu, Junaid, Suhail, Hafizul Rehman, Karimuddin and Arif. “All the accused and the girls belong to the same village. Chotu, son of Chetram, was known to the girls in the past and he was the one who had introduced the girls to three of the accused. Later, when the girls started forcing them for marriage, the accused strangulated and hanged them,” said Lakhimpur Kheri SP Sanjeev Suman. Both girls were raped before the murder, the police said.
The SP said that apart from Chotu alias Gautam, three of the other accused, who were acquainted with the girls, were identified as Suhail, son of Islamuddin, Hafizul Rehman alias Majhalka, and Junaid. “Junaid was arrested following an encounter on Thursday morning and he has a gunshot injury in one of his legs,” he said, adding that these three called two more of their friends from the same village – Karimuddin alias DD and Arif, son of Ahmad Hussain – to assist them in hanging the girls from the tree.
लखीमपुर खीरी में दलित बेटियों की हत्या और दुष्कर्म के आरोपी जुनैद से पुलिस की मुठभेड़, जूनैद को लगी गोली, 6 गिरफ्तार
युवती को बहला फुसला के खेत में ले गए, आरोपी परिवार के पडोसी हैं। सभी आरोपी आपस में दोस्त हैं,आरोपियों में जुनैद, सोहैल, आरिफ़,हफ़ीज़, करीमुद्दीन और छोटे हैं। pic.twitter.com/weqHDPbrSA
— आदित्य तिवारी / Aditya Tiwari (@aditytiwarilive) September 15, 2022
The mother of the victims said that while she was taking a bath around 3 pm on Wednesday, she heard Chotu, who frequents their area, calling her daughters. Soon, three boys came and started dragging her daughters away, she added. “I tried to stop them and ran behind them, but they beat me up and left. I shouted and ran back to seek help from the villagers,” the mother said.
The family members of the girls have sought the death penalty for the accused hoping to prevent such crimes in future. “All we want is phansi (death penalty) for the accused, that is all,” the victims’ brother said.
— ANI UP/Uttarakhand (@ANINewsUP) September 15, 2022
The FIR was registered late on Wednesday night under sections 302 (murder), 323 (voluntary causing hurt), 452 (house trespass) and 378 (theft) of the Indian Penal Code, besides section 3 and 4 (sexual assault) of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
On Wednesday evening, as the news spread, angry locals staged a protest and blocked a road. The blockade was lifted only after senior police officials intervened and assured a thorough probe and strict action against the guilty.
UP Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak vowed to take strict action against the accused. “The government will take such an action that the souls of their coming generations will also shiver. Justice will be given,” he told news agency ANI.
Reacting to the incident, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati flagged what she believes is a law and order issue in the state. “This incident strongly exposes the claims of the government in the matter of law and order and women’s safety etc. in UP,” Mayawati tweeted on Thursday. “In the cases of such heinous crimes including Hathras, most of the criminals are fearless because of the veil.”
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra condemned the incident, highlighting the increasing number of crimes against women in the state. “The incident of murder of two sisters in Lakhimpur (UP) is heart-wrenching,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “Giving false advertisements in newspapers and TV every day does not improve law and order. After all, why are heinous crimes against women increasing in UP?”