TWO teenage girls believed to have been raped and hanged by attackers in a north Indian village committed suicide because of shame over a relationship with a boy, India’s top investigative agency said yesterday.
An earlier investigation by local police and post-mortem examination reports were incorrect, and five innocent men were arrested, said Kanchan Prasad, spokeswoman for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Images of the girls’ bodies hanging from a tree in their village of Katra in Badaun district in Uttar Pradesh shocked the country in May. Local police said the girls were gang-raped and murdered. The five men were arrested and later released on bail.
The federal agency took over the probe following public outrage over the deaths of the two cousins, who were about 14 years of age. They were the daughters of two brothers.
“The CBI has come to the conclusion that the allegations of sexual assault and murder were false. It was a case of suicide,” Ms Prasad said.
She said medical reports ruled out any sexual assault, and the parents of the girls had filed a false police report of rape and murder.
“There were no marks of violence or injuries on the bodies of the two girls, except for the ligature marks on their necks. Also, nobody heard any cries for help though there were houses around the spot where the bodies were found hanging,” she said.
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Ms Prasad said the older of the girls had a relationship with one of the suspects which she hid from her family.
The night the girls died, the younger girl had called her cousin’s boyfriend and suggested they go to a local fair. The three left their homes after dinner, Ms Prasad said.
Later, the older girl and her boyfriend were caught by one of her relatives as they were about to have sex in a nearby field, she said.
CBI director Ranjit Sinha said: “Our probe found that the two girls had committed suicide and weren’t murdered.”
A senior CBI official was quoted as saying the girls took their own lives “because of family pressure owing to disapproval of their friendship with a villager”.
The Aam Admi Party, born out of the anti-corruption movement that swept India three years ago, rejected the CBI’s suicide theory and demanded the CBI reconsider its report.
“It seems humanly impossible for two girls to hang themselves or the CBI is not sharing the full facts,” the party said in a statement.
“Badaun seems to be a convenient cover-up to avoid international shame and acceptance of the dismal law-and-order situation in Uttar Pradesh.”
The girls’ deaths shocked the world and stoked political tension between newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, and state officials over the investigation of the case.
Three brothers were arrested and held in jail in Badaun, 125 miles south-east of the capital New Delhi, but were released on bail when a 90-day period to press charges expired. Two policemen were held on suspicion of trying to cover up the apparent killings but were also released.
Four of the five suspects were from the powerful Yadav community, a land-owning Hindu caste that holds political sway in Uttar Pradesh. The victims were Shakyas, a lowly caste.
The girls apparently committed suicide because they were afraid of the reaction of their families and the stigma attached to what they had done, a CBI spokeswoman said. Indian villages are extremely conservative and such a scandal would be difficult for a family to bear.
The CBI will hand over its findings to a court, which will decide whether to prosecute the families of the girls for filing a false police complaint, she said.
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