rape protest

Social activists hold placards as they take part in a protest outside Uttar Pradesh Bhavan, New Delhi July 30 calling for action in a rape case in Uttar Pradesh. Fresh protests erupted in India July 30 amid growing public fury over a car crash that critically injured a teenager who accused a lawmaker from the ruling party of rape and harassment. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — Protesters took to the streets of India’s capital July 29 demanding a fast-track probe into a highway crash that killed two people and seriously injured two others, including a teenager who has accused a ruling party lawmaker of rape.

Opposition parties and women’s organizations claimed that the weekend crash was an attempt on the woman’s life by Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker Kuldeep Sengar’s supporters to weaken the rape case against him.

Sengar is in jail awaiting trial and could not be reached for comment, but has previously denied the rape accusation.

The woman’s car was hit by a truck in northern Uttar Pradesh state July 27. Two of her aunts were killed and her lawyer was seriously injured. Police arrested the truck’s driver and owner.

The state police first described it as an accident. On July 28, it registered a criminal case on a complaint by the woman’s family and recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s FBI, said Awanish Awasthy, a state government spokesman.

The following day, the Congress and other opposition parties raised the issue in Parliament claiming a nexus between the politicians, criminals and the police.

Priyanka Gandhi, a Congress party general secretary, tweeted: “Why do we give people like Kuldeep Sengar the strength and protection of political power and abandon their victims to battle for their lives alone?”

Carrying placards demanding justice for the rape victim, dozens of protesters representing women’s organizations in the Indian capital accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP of shielding the lawmaker and police of delaying his prosecution.

The state BJP president, Swatantra Dev Singh, said that Sengar had already been suspended from the party and that the road crash would be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Sengar was arrested in March last year, but the court trial was yet to begin in the case, they said. Sengar denied the allegation at the time of his arrest.

Violent crimes against women have been on the rise in India despite tough laws enacted in 2013.

In 2012, the fatal gang rape of a young woman in the heart of New Delhi prompted hundreds of thousands of Indians to take to the streets to demand stricter rape laws.

The outrage over the New Delhi attack spurred quick action on legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. Indian lawmakers also voted to lower to 16 from 18 the age at which a person can be tried as an adult for heinous crimes.

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