Two Dalit teenage sisters were found hanging from a tree in a sugarcane field located about a kilometre away from their house in Nighasan police station limits in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri on Wednesday (September 14), hours after they were allegedly abducted and raped, triggering a wave of criticism from opposition leaders and protests by villagers.
Six men were arrested on Thursday, police said. Police sources said the post-mortem report stated that the girls were raped while strangulation was confirmed as the cause of death.
According to preliminary investigation, the two sisters left their home on Wednesday afternoon with two of the accused, Junaid and Sohail, Lakhimpur Kheri Superintendent of Police (SP) Sanjiv Suman said in Lakhimpur Kheri.
Also read: UP: Minor girl alleges she was raped by SHO when she visited police station to file gang-rape case
Two confess to committing crime
“Junaid and Sohail have confessed to strangulating the girls after raping them,” Suman added.
The SP also said Junaid and Sohail were allegedly in a relationship with the two sisters.
“We have arrested Junaid, Sohail, Hafizur Rehman, Karimuddin, Arif and Chottu in an overnight operation,” said Suman.
Junaid was arrested following an encounter around 8.30 am, the police said. The motorcycle used in the crime was also recovered. The police have also seized a country-made pistol and ammunition from him.
Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said Junaid was injured in the encounter.
“The bodies have been handed over to the girls’ family, who will conduct their last rites,” Kumar said.
SP Suman said the clothes of the other accused have also been sent for examination as part of a detailed probe.
A case has been registered against them under sections 302 (murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Suman also dismissed claims that police used force to send the bodies for post-mortem.
The post-mortem had been conducted with the family’s consent and in their presence, he said. Videography of the post-mortem examination was also done, the SP added.
The victims’ mother lodged a complaint at Nighasan Kotwali police station late on Wednesday night, alleging that her daughters were raped and murdered.
She alleged that three motorcycle-borne unidentified youths, along with her neighbour Chhotu, stormed her hutment and abducted her daughters.
When she resisted, one of them kicked her and took the girls on a motorcycle towards the fields outside the village, the victims’ mother alleged.
The family later found the girls’ bodies hanging from a tree in a field a few hundred metres from their village, she said.
Congress, SP reactions
Meanwhile, villagers held a demonstration at Nighasan Cross to protest the killings.
SP Suman and Assistant Superintendent of Police Arun Kumar Singh talked to the irate villagers in a bid to console them, while a heavy police force was deployed in the village to ensure law and order.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra attacked the Uttar Pradesh government over “increasing” crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh and compared the twin deaths with the 2020 Hathras gang-rape and murder.
Comparing Wednesday’s case to the Hathras incident, SP president Akhilesh Yadav said in a tweet, “Murder of two Dalit sisters after kidnapping them in Nighasan police station area. Their father’s allegation on the police is very serious that they carried out panchnama and post-mortem without the family’s consent. After farmers in Lakhimpur, the killing of Dalits is now a repetition of the murder of Hathras daughter.”
निघासन पुलिस थाना क्षेत्र में 2 दलित बहनों को अगवा करने के बाद उनकी हत्या और उसके बाद पुलिस पर पिता का ये आरोप बेहद गंभीर है कि बिना पंचनामा और सहमति के उनका पोस्टमार्टम किया गया।
लखीमपुर में किसानों के बाद अब दलितों की हत्या ‘हाथरस की बेटी’ हत्याकांड की जघन्य पुनरावृत्ति है। pic.twitter.com/gFmea4bAUc
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) September 14, 2022
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also took to Twitter to condemn the incident.
“The killings of the two sisters in Lakhimpur is heartbreaking. Family says the girls were abducted in broad daylight. Law and order in the state doesnt improve by giving false advertisements in newspapers and TV everyday. After all, why are heinous crimes against women increasing in Uttar Pradesh? When will the government wake up?”
लखीमपुर (उप्र) में दो बहनों की हत्या की घटना दिल दहलाने वाली है। परिजनों का कहना है कि उन लड़कियों का दिनदहाड़े अपहरण किया गया था।
रोज अखबारों व टीवी में झूठे विज्ञापन देने से कानून व्यवस्था अच्छी नहीं हो जाती।आखिर उप्र में महिलाओं के खिलाफ जघन्य अपराध क्यों बढ़ते जा रहे हैं? pic.twitter.com/A1K3xvfeUI
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) September 14, 2022
A 19-year-old Dalit woman was raped allegedly by four upper-caste men in Hathras on September 14, 2020. She died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital.
The victim was cremated in the dead of the night near her home on September 30. Her family members had alleged that they were forced by the local police to hurriedly conduct her last rites. Local police officers, however, said the cremation was carried out “according to the wishes of the family”.
(With inputs from agencies)