Indian police say a legislator from the governing BJP has been arrested on charges of abducting and raping a teenaged girl a year ago.
Kuldeep Singh Sengar, 50, a member in the Uttar Pradesh state legislative assembly, has been accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in June. Sengar has denied the allegations, calling them politically motivated.
Sengar was arrested on Friday after questioning, Uttar Pradesh police chief OP Singh said.
The girl has alleged she was raped in June in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh and has been trying to lodge a complaint with the police since August.
India’s top investigative body, the Central Bureau of Investigation, is currently investigating the case.
The case made national headlines after the victim tried to kill herself on April 8, in front of the home of Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, alleging the police had refused to register her case.
A day later, her father died in police custody after he was beaten by Sengar’s brother, who has since been arrested.
The police finally registered a case against the politician on Thursday, almost 10 months after the incident, saying it was not filed earlier because of discrepancies in the girl’s statement.
The girl and her family have been given police protection.
‘Shock and septicaemia’
The girl has alleged that her father was beaten and killed following orders from Sengar.
The father, who was brought to a hospital from jail, died on Monday, from wounds suffered during the alleged assault. A toxicology report says he died of “shock and septicaemia”.
Sengar has been remanded to CBI custody for seven days in the case by a Lucknow court, according to Indian news media reports.
CBI officials said they would question Sengar and also take him to Unnao to reconstruct the scene of the crime and to collect evidence against him.
|Sengar has dismissed the charges against him as a ‘conspiracy’ [S Chakraborty/HT/GALLO/GETTY]|
He is further expected to be confronted with the accuser and her family.
Local police filed a case on Thursday against Sengar that include provisions filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
“We have filed an FIR (First Information Report) today under the sections 363, 366, 376 that deals with rape under the Indian Penal Code as well as the POCSO act,” Kunwar Bahadur Singh, deputy superintendent of police at Unnao police station, told Al Jazeera.
“The Special Investigation Team has been probing the case.”
Sengar has dismissed the charges against him as a “conspiracy” levelled by “low-class people”.
At least six policemen have been suspended following allegations of collusion.
Amnesty International on Wednesday said the Unnao rape case painted a “chilling picture”.
Six years after the Delhi gang-rape case that shocked the world, rape survivors in India face significant barriers to obtaining justice and critical support services, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.
Indian women who report sexual assaults are still routinely harassed by police and bullied into silence and subsequent withdrawal of complaints, according to the report.
Vrindra Grover, a supreme court lawyer who specialises in sexual assault cases, said in this case, “the subversion of the law is being done by the lawmaker and the law enforcer”.
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“Systems are manipulated from the investigation stage onwards, the processes of law are subverted by those in power. The Unnao case is the most brazen illustration of this,” Grover told Al Jazeera.
“The police facilitated the beating to death of the father of the girl. If the police is going to not act according to the law but at the behest of the accused, then there can be no hope for justice. Today law and justice are a mirage that we are offering the women of this country.
“The state is supposed to protect the people. This lawmaker is shamelessly flaunting his power by saying that he has the blessings of the entire state government.”
According to National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016, incidents of rape of children in India increased by over 82 percent compared with 2015.
In 2016, police in India registered 38,947 rape complaints, an increase of 12.4 percent from the previous year.