NEW DELHI - Protests, outrage, calls for swift justice and even “lynching” have engulfed India over the alleged gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinarian in the southern city of Hyderabad, in the state of Telangana.
The incident last week brought back memories of the gang rape of a young physiotherapy student seven years ago that turned the spotlight on sexual violence against women in India.
The veterinarian left her home Wednesday evening in Hyderabad. Her charred remains were found the next morning.
Authorities say she last communicated with her sister to say she had a flat tire near a highway toll booth on the outskirts of the city and that a truck driver had stopped to help fix it.
Police say four men dragged her to an isolated spot near a motorway, where they allegedly took turns raping her. Authorities say the suspects later set her body on fire, wrapped it in a blanket and dumped it under a bridge, where it was found by a passerby.
The chief minister of Telangana state called for a fast track court to be set up to expedite the trial of the accused, who have been taken into custody.
That has not satisfied angry protesters, who emerged on the streets of several cities and voiced their frustration with the continuing tide of sexual violence against women. In Hyderabad, a student activist linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the culprits should be hanged in public.
The popular anger was echoed parliament on Monday, as lawmakers demanded swift and strict punishment for the suspects.
The most radical opinion was voiced by Jaya Bachchan, a former Bollywood star, who has strong views on women’s rights. "I know it sounds harsh, but I think these kinds of people need to be brought out in public and lynched," she said. That, according to her, would be the best justice.
Vijila Sathyananth, a lawmaker from Tamil Nadu, struggled to hold back tears as she said the country was not safe for children and women. She demanded that the men who committed this crime be hanged before December 31. "Justice delayed is justice denied," she said.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh joined the calls for swift justice. “This act has brought shame to the entire country. It has hurt everyone,” he said, calling for the most stringent punishment for the crime.
The case also sparked outrage on social media with #HangRapists trending on Twitter in India.
Angry family members have turned away politicians and officials -- in the area where she lived in Hyderabad, residents locked the main gate and held placards saying: "No Media, No Police, No Outsiders - No sympathy, only action, justice." The family accuses the police of not acting swiftly enough after she was reported missing.
The National Commission for Women has condemned the incident, with its head, Rekha Sharma, saying it “won’t leave any stone unturned until these perpetrators get the punishment they deserve.”
India tightened laws in the aftermath of the 2012 gang rape of the physiotherapy student in New Delhi, doubling prison terms for rapists, but if appears to have done little to stem cases of brutal sexual assaults of women.
According to the latest government figures, 33,658 cases were reported in 2017 -- an average of more than 90 incidents everyday.
Women activists say the actual number is much higher because many cases are never reported.