India: Haryana widows battered to death

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Two widows have been bludgeoned to death by a man in the northern Indian state of Haryana, officials say.

Police arrested a 23-year-old man, the nephew of one of the women. He was on parole, having served a sentence for rape.

Eyewitnesses told police he killed his aunt and another woman in full view of other villagers, after he accused them of being in a lesbian relationship.

Haryana is a deeply conservative and patriarchal region.

Correspondents say that so-called "honour killings" are relatively common in the area.

There have been numerous cases in rural Haryana where women - and men - defying age-old notions of tradition and family honour have been ostracised, murdered or even publicly lynched, correspondents say.

The latest killings happened late on Sunday at Ranila village.

The accused reportedly began beating one of the women, identified as 35-year-old Suman, with a wooden club after accusing her of having an "unnatural affair" with his aunt Shakuntala, eyewitnesses told the police.

A few minutes later, he dragged his aunt onto the village street and beat her to death in front of local villagers who were too scared to intervene, local journalists say.

The two bled to death as the villagers watched.

"[He] threatened other villagers not to help the widows or call for medical help," a police official said.

Police said he later told them that the women were of "loose character" and that they "deserved their fate".

He said he had killed the women to protect his "family's honour".

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