A 23-year-old girl in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was fighting for her life after she was set ablaze on Thursday.
The girl was on her way to a hearing in her rape case when a group of men assaulted her, doused her in petrol before setting her on fire, according to local media reports.
She is being treated for severe burns, with doctors describing her condition as critical.
Police have arrested five men, including two of her alleged rapists, on suspicion of the Thursday attack.
In March, the girl was raped by five men – police arrested three of them, while two others were still on the run.
“The victim has been referred to a hospital in Lucknow for better treatment. The victim had earlier filed a rape case and one of the accused in that case has also been rounded up,” according to police.
The Thursday incident occurred in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district, where another girl was raped in July. Police opened a murder probeagainst a ruling party lawmaker after the 19-year-old girl was seriously injured in a car crash.
The girl’s family alleged that Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a legislator from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had engineered the accident.
Last week, a 27-year-old vet in the southern city of Hyderabad was raped and set on fire, sparking huge protests across the country. Jaya Bachchan, former Bollywood actress and a member of parliament, called for the “lynching” of rapists.
“I know it sounds harsh, but these kind of people should be brought out in public and lynched,” Bachchan said in parliament.
Civil society groups also condemned the brutal incident as they held protests across the country.
India’s rape problem
Crimes against women have been on the rise in the South Asian country. In 2012, the fatal gang rape of a medical student in a moving bus shocked the country, prompting thousands of people to take to the streets to demand stricter rape laws.
In January last year, an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir was brutally raped and murdered. The Muslim girl was allegedly kidnapped, confined using sedatives and repeatedly gang-raped in a temple. She was strangled and then hit with a heavy stone. BJP supporters and other Hindu groups rallied in support of the accused rapists — a development that divided the Kashmiri community.
Although the government has doubled prison terms for rapists to 20 years, civil society activists continue to demand a quicker implementation of the laws.
According to the latest government figures, Indian police registered 33,658 cases of rape in 2017 – an average of 92 rapes every day.