Four men accused of a rape and murder that has shocked India were shot dead by police while in custody at the scene of the crime early Friday.
The suspects were accused of the gang rape and murder of a woman whose body was dumped and set alight on the outskirts of Hyderabad last month. They were shot dead by police during a reconstruction of the attack, after at least one of them grabbed an officer’s weapon and opened fire, a deputy commissioner in the city told reporters.
"In self-defense, the police fired at the accused,” Prakash Reddy said, adding that all four suspects were killed “in the crossfire.”
The deaths have met a divided response in India, where the Hyderabad attack had sparked renewed national outrage over violence against women, with many protesters demanding the death sentence for her killers.
The family of the victim, who hasn’t been publicly identified due to Indian laws against naming sex assault survivors, hailed the police’s actions, saying they were happy with the outcome.
“We did not expect that justice will be delivered,” the victim’s mother told reporters. “I have been saying that the government will not do anything, but today they have done something.”
The woman’s father was equally grateful, saying: “My daughter's soul must be at peace now.” Many politicians also commended police for their actions.
But civil rights groups said the killings appeared to be extrajudicial executions and called for an urgent investigation.
“Extrajudicial killings are not a solution to preventing rape,” Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement.
“In a modern and rights-respecting society, using extrajudicial executions to offer justice to victims of rape is not only unconstitutional, but circumvents the Indian legal system and sets a grossly-wrong precedent.”
Another group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, described the police shootings as “a planned murder,” while Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy tweeted that now the suspects’ guilt or innocence would never be established.
The victim, a 26-year-old veterinarian, was attacked on the evening of Nov. 27 after parking her moped. Police allege the suspects had deliberately deflated her tire before launching their attack. The woman’s burned body was discovered beneath an underpass the next morning.
The case has had a similar impact to another horrific attack in Delhi in 2012, in which a 23-year-old woman died following a sexual assault on a bus. Four attackers in that case were sentenced to death in 2013 and remain on death row.
Cover: An Indian man takes photos of the site where the burned body of a 27-year-old woman was found last week by a passer-by, in Shadnagar some 50 kilometers or 31 miles from Hyderabad, India, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)