India police hunt suspects in rapes and deaths of three young sisters

Indian police have launched a manhunt for men suspected in the rape and killing of three sisters, aged five to 11, in the latest case of sexual violence to grip India.

The sisters’ bodies were found in a village well in Maharashtra state on February 14 after they had gone missing from school, said police officer Javed Ahmed.

The area is more than 1,000 kilometres south of New Delhi, the capital.

Enraged villagers blocked a national road passing through the area for several hours demanding justice.

The fatal gang rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi on December 16 set off nationwide protests about India’s treatment of women. Five men are being tried on rape and murder charges in connection with that case.

“The police did not take the case seriously and did nothing for two days,” the mother, who was not named, told the CNN-IBN television news channel.

One police officer has been suspended for not acting promptly, Indian Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel, who represents Bhandara district in Parliament, told reporters in New Delhi.

“It is unacceptable. All of us have to hang our heads in shame,” Mr Patel said.

The bus gang rape spurred the government to hurry through a new package of laws to protect women.

The gang rape victim and her male friend, who also was badly beaten up in the attack, were dumped naked on the roadside, and the woman died from her injuries two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

A new law enacted by the government has increased the sentences for rape from the existing seven to 10 years to a maximum of 20 years. It also provides for the death penalty in extreme cases of rape that result in death or leave the victim in a coma.

It has also made voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.

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