Indians protest political inaction on gang rapes through #WakeUpAkhilesh hashtag


An Indian woman, one among the protesters demonstrating outside the office of Uttar Pradesh state Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, demanding that he crack down on an increasing number of rapes and other attacks on women and girls, scuffles with police Monday. (AP)

A recent rash of grisly incidents of gang rape in India — including the jarring case of two young girls who were later found hanging from a tree — has sparked backlash against the country's politicians on Twitter.

The #WakeUpAkhilesh hashtag quickly became a vehicle for public anger over the handling of several recent gang rape cases by Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Thousands of people in India targeted Yadav virtually Monday, complaining that his government has done little to address the problem in the state's deeply poor rural areas, where rape and violence against women often go unreported and unpunished. Uttar Pradesh is a vast state, with a population roughly the same as Brazil's.

There have been at least two other  high-profile rape cases that have rocked Uttar Pradesh, apart from the case of the two young girls. A woman was found dead in Bareilly after being gang raped and forced to drink acid, according to the Hindustan Times, and in Etawah, when a rape victim's mother tried to report her daughter's rape, she was allegedly beaten and publicly stripped by the alleged rapists.

Adding to the fury are comments from Yadav's father, Indian politician  Mulayam Singh Yadav, who said in April that gang rapes were "mistakes."

"Boys will be boys," he said. "They commit mistakes."

In many of the comments on Twitter, "shame" is a common denominator. The rapes have captured international headlines, and once again brought attention to a problem in India that first became an international scandal after a woman was gang raped on a Delhi bus in 2012 (and later died from her injuries). That case prompted changes in the law, but it hasn't stopped a flood of new incidents from dominating the news.

Akhilesh Yadav, who is the youngest person to ever hold his post, was initially viewed as a potential reformer who could modernize the government.

But on Monday, as protesters gathered outside of his office, they clashed violently with police, who used water cannons to disperse the group.

As of 5:07 p.m. EST the #WakeUpAkhilesh was the top trend on Twitter in India:

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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