New Delhi – Five police officers have been suspended for their role in handling an alleged gang rape of a young Dalit woman in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, as protests over the incident continued on Saturday.
The men suspended include the police chief of Hathras district, where the 20-year-old woman was assaulted on Sept. 14 in a field outside her village.
The woman’s family said they found her naked and bleeding with her back broken, according to local media.
She died two weeks later in a Delhi hospital.
Four upper-caste men from her village have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The police’s delayed response to her family’s initial complaint of assault and their late-night cremation of her body without the family’s consent have been widely criticised.
Hathras police chief Vir Vikrant Singh has been suspended for negligence and lax supervision, along with four other officers, a Twitter post from the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s office said.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered a probe by a special police investigation team.
It has been asked to submit its report in a week.
Restrictions imposed two days ago preventing opposition politicians and the media from visiting the victim’s village were eased on Saturday, after protests by opposition Indian National Congress party workers on the main highway.
Uttar Pradesh is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party which also runs the federal government.
“The restrictions were to maintain law and order and to allow the probe team to carry out its investigations,” a local police official told NDTV news channel.
Opposition leaders trying to reach the village since Thursday had been turned back. On Saturday the administration allowed journalists and a few leaders, including the Indian National Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi, to visit.
“We want to know whose body was burnt on that day. And if it was our sister’s body then why did they burn her in this manner?
“All of us requested the police and the administration to allow us to see her one last time,” NDTV quoted the victim’s brother as saying.
He said the police had not given them the post mortem report, adding that it was in English and they would not be able to read it.
Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, are on the lowest rung of India’s archaic caste system.
They have historically faced discrimination even though there are extant laws to protect them, and still do the most menial of jobs, including manual scavenging.
The death of the 20-year-old has sparked protests by members of Dalit communities and activists across India.
Police clashed with a group of protesters from a Dalit community in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday.
The community has also said that its members would not be clearing garbage and doing other cleaning work in the city as a mark of protest, NDTV reported.