Four men were arrested in the suspected gang-rape and murder of a Telangana vet whose burned body was found last week. Former Bollywood star and lawmaker Jaya Bachchan is under fire for promoting mob-justice after saying rapists should be lynched.

People look at a board displaying photographs and messages demanding justice for the rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinary doctor, from Hyderabad, in Mumbai on December 1, 2019.
People look at a board displaying photographs and messages demanding justice for the rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinary doctor, from Hyderabad, in Mumbai on December 1, 2019. (AFP)

India ordered setting up a fast track court to try those accused in the gang-rape and murder of a veterinary doctor, as one lawmaker on Monday called for the public "lynching" of the four alleged rapists, kicking off backlash on social media.

K Chandrasekhar Rao, the chief minister of southern Indian state Telangana, said a fast track court will hold the trial in what he said was a "ghastly" case involving a 27-year-old woman who was allegedly gang-raped, killed and then her body burned in the town of Shadnagar, near Hyderabad city, on Thursday.

The woman went missing on Wednesday night and her body was found by a passer-by in an underpass on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Police say the suspects allegedly offered to fix a flat tire on her motorbike and then took her in a truck to a secluded spot where the crime was committed.

She made the last phone call to her sister saying her bike had broken down and she was scared because some people sitting in a truck were staring at her, Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar said.

On Monday, police issued a "safety advisory" for women in the state that also asked them "to download Hawkeye app and keep location services on at all times," Times of India reported.

Reminiscent of 2012 gang-rape and murder

While suspects were detained soon after, the rape sparked new outrage in a country that has been in the international spotlight over its handling of sex assaults since the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus in 2012.

India has 664 fast track courts involved in trials in rape cases, while the country plans to set up 1,023 more such courts to settle sexual offences against women and children. 

The current case has also provoked outrage on social media with #HangRapists trending on Twitter in India.

"It has been 7 yrs to the gut-wrenching #Nirbhaya case & our moral fabric continues to be in pieces," Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar tweeted. "We need stricter laws. This needs to STOP!"

India's National Commission for Women has condemned the incident, with its head Rekha Sharma saying it "won't leave any stone unturned till these perpetrators get the punishment they deserve".

The commission advises the government on policy regarding women's rights and aims to provide a voice for issues ranging from sexual exploitation to employment, but has no judicial powers.

Demand to 'lynch' rapists slammed

On Monday, an Indian lawmaker speaking in the upper house of the Indian parliament demanded the alleged rapists be publicly "lynched."

"Rapists should be brought out in public and lynched," local media reported Jaya Bachchan as saying, triggering criticism on social media where the former Bollywood actor was accused of promoting lawless mob-justice.

Hate crimes against minorities have spiked in India since PM Narendra Modi and his Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. Dozens of Muslim men have been attacked or lynched by Hindu mobs since then, many on suspicion of slaughtering cows or consuming beef.

Series of sexual assaults

India has been shaken by a series of sexual assaults in recent years, with the rape and strangling of a six-year-old in Rajasthan reported as recently as Monday.

While the government has passed a series of laws increasing punishment for rape, it’s rare for more than a few weeks to pass without another brutal sexual assault being reported.

In 2013, India doubled prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalised voyeurism, stalking, and the trafficking of women.

Indian lawmakers also voted to lower the age at which a person can be tried as an adult for heinous crimes from 18 to 16.

According to the most recent available official crime records, 38,947 women were raped in India in 2016, including over 2,000 girls younger than 12.

In 2016, 338,954 girls and women were subjected to crimes like molestation, kidnappings, and cruelty by husbands or relatives.

Women’s safety remained one of the key promises of PM Modi in 2014 and 2019 election campaigns.

Several countries, including the US, have issued a travel advisory to their citizens travelling to India warning them to exercise increased caution due to rapes and other problems.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies