The bodies of two teenage Indian girls who had been gang-raped were found hanging from a mango tree Wednesday morning in a village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The girls, ages 14 and 15, were cousins and were part of the Dalit community, formerly known as “untouchables,” according to the Times of India. They reportedly went missing from their home Tuesday night.
According to India’s NDTV: “The tiny village … woke up on Wednesday morning to the chilling sight of two teen girls hanging from a tree in an orchard.”
“We haven’t concluded the investigations but as of now we believe the girls were assaulted for their low caste,” Man Singh Chauhan, senior superintendent of police in Badaun, where the attack occurred, told The Washington Post.
The BBC reported one man has been held for the murders and two officers were removed from duty for not following up when the girls were reported missing, police said. News outlets in India reported the incident ignited protests in the village over what residents consider police apathy.
Police said they are still waiting on the autopsy report of the two girls who were examined and then cremated on Wednesday, according to news reports.
Gang rape, particularly of low-caste girls, has become a highly publicized problem in India after years of collective silence, broken by the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus.
After the 2012 attacks — and following protests and an investigation — the government tightened laws on sexual violence. Senior police official Atul Saxena told the BBC that police were looking for two more men in connection with Wednesday’s incident.
“We are still investigating how the girls went missing and were allegedly raped and hung from a tree,” Saxena told the BBC.
Chauhan said that the two girls were abducted by the accused on Tuesday and were sexually assaulted and later hanged to death.
“We have arrested two accused, and three others are on run,” Chauhan said. “The two are being questioned.”
He also said two policemen have been suspended for not filing a report when the family contacted them to say the girls were missing.