Two Cops Arrested Over Gang Rape, Hanging of Indian Teens

Four people, including four police officers, have been arrested in connection with the rape and hanging of two teenage girls in India.

The arrests came Friday as local government officials came under heavy criticism for their handling of the case in a country that has a history of sexual violence.

This anger intensified as the top official in Uttar Pradesh, the state where the incident happened, mocked journalists when they grilled him on the crime.

"Aren't you safe? You're not facing any danger, are you?" Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav asked journalists in Lucknow, according to The Associated Press. "Then why are you worried? What's it to you?"

Image: Cousins gang-raped, hanged from tree in India
Villagers and policemen gather near the spot where the two teenage cousins were found hanging. EPA

The two girls, ages 14 and 15, disappeared Tuesday night when they went into fields near their house to go to the toilet, a practice common for around half of India’s 1.2 billion people who do not restrooms in their houses.

Their families claim that when one of the girl’s fathers reported their absence to the police they ignored him, something authorities deny.

The girls were found the next day hanging from a mango tree. Villagers held a silent protest around the gently swinging bodies and demanded police action. They let the girls be cut down after the first arrest was made on Thursday. An autopsy confirmed the girls had been raped and strangled, police said.

The incident sparked protests in New Delhi and the country's fledgling government asked state officials to provide a written report, according to Reuters.

As of Friday two villagers had been arrested in connection with offense, and two police officers fired and arrested for allegedly refusing to file a complaint, op state official Anil Kumar Gupta told the AP.

The community near the village of Katra come from the Dalit social group. This formed one of the lowest sections of India's ancient caste system and at one point were known as "the untouchables."

Family members said Friday they believed the crime was part of a conspiracy perpetrated by the Yadavs, the dominant caste in the area, the Indian broadcaster NDTV reported.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

— Alexander Smith