Bodies of teenage Dalit sisters found hanging from tree in India

There is uproar in India after the bodies of two sisters belonging to the marginalised Dalit community were found hanging from a tree in the northern Uttar Pradesh state.

Police suspect the two girls, aged 15 and 17, were gang raped and murdered in the Lakhimpur Kheri district. Six accused men have been arrested, they said.

Sanjeev Suman, the police chief in Lakhimpur Kheri, told reporters the two minors, residents of Tamoli Purva village in the district, were lured to a nearby field on Wednesday afternoon and allegedly raped by the accused.

“The men allegedly strangulated them with their scarf and hung them from a tree. The investigation is on,” he said.

Police identified the six accused as Chhotu, Junaid, Sohail, Hafizul, Karimuddin, and Arif. They said Chhotu is the victims’ neighbour and had introduced the two sisters to the rest of the men a few days ago.

Dalits, formerly referred to as the “untouchables”, fall at the bottom of India’s complex caste system. For centuries, they have been victims of discrimination and persecution by privileged caste groups despite laws in place for their protection.

Ram Gautam, the uncle of the girls and a construction worker in Lakhimpur Kheri, said the family is waiting for a postmortem report.