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India's recent history of disturbing alleged rape cases continued Thursday after police said village elders ordered the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman because she was in a relationship with a man from a different community.
Authorities in a rural part of West Bengal arrested 13 people in connection with the alleged offense that left the woman in critical condition in the hospital, police told the BBC.
"The relationship was going on for almost five years," Birbhum police chief C. Sudhakar said. "When the man visited the woman's home on Monday with the proposal of marriage, villagers spotted him and organized a kangaroo court. During the 'proceedings,' the couple were made to sit with hands tied."
Sudhakar told the BBC that the elders took action because the woman was from their tribal community and her boyfriend was from a non-tribal community nearby.
So-called "kangaroo courts," made up of village elders, do not have an official capacity but are not uncommon especially in India's more rural areas.
The woman said she was assaulted by the men on the night of Jan. 20 in the district of Birbhum.
Sudhakar told the BBC that the lead elder, who is among those arrested, had initially ordered the woman's family to pay 25,000 rupees ($400).
But they were too poor to pay the fine so the elder told the alleged gang rapists "go enjoy the girl and have fun," according to a complaint filed by the family.
According to a report by Reuters the men have appeared in court and are now remanded in jail.
The issue of sexual violence against women in India became a national and international issue last year after a 23-year-old student was killed in a brutal gang rape in Delhi in 2012.
The case shocked the world and led to nationwide protests and a toughening of the laws covering sex crimes.