Lakhimpur Kheri (UP): Six men were arrested on Thursday in connection with the alleged rape and murder of two Dalit teenage sisters here, police said.
The girls, aged 15 and 17, were found hanging from a tree in a sugarcane field about a kilometre from their house in the Nighasan police station area on Wednesday.
"We have arrested Junaid, Sohail, Hafizur Rehman, Karimuddin, Arif and Chottu in an overnight operation," Lakhimpur Kheri Superintendent of Police (SP) Sanjiv Suman told reporters.
Junaid and Sohail were allegedly in a relationship with the two sisters, he said.
"According to preliminary investigation, the two sisters left their home on Wednesday afternoon after they were persuaded by Junaid and Sohail. Junaid and Sohail have confessed that they strangulated the girls after raping them," the SP said.
The duo then called Karimuddin and Arif to dispose of their bodies. They later hanged the bodies from a tree to make it look like suicide, Suman said.
An FIR has been registered under sections 302 (murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault, or wrongful restraint), 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, he said.
A post-mortem examination is underway at the district hospital. Everything is being done with the consent of the girls' family members, he said.
The girls' mother had on Wednesday claimed that they were murdered.
As soon as the news broke on Wednesday, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra attacked the Uttar Pradesh government over "increasing" crimes against women in the state and compared the twin deaths with the Hathras gang-rape and murder.
Comparing Wednesday's case to the Hathras incident, SP president Akhilesh Yadav said in a tweet, "Murder of two Dalit sisters after kidnapping them in Nighasan police station area. Their father's allegation to the police is very serious that they carried out 'panchnama' and post-mortem without the family's consent. After farmers in Lakhimpur, the killing of Dalits is now a repetition of the murder of 'Hathras' daughter'."
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also took to Twitter to condemn the incident.
"The killings of the two sisters in Lakhimpur is heartbreaking. Family says the girls were abducted in broad daylight. Law and order in the state doesn't improve by giving false advertisements in newspapers and TV everyday. After all, why are heinous crimes against women increasing in Uttar Pradesh? When will the government wake up?"