South Asia

India files police rape cases over Bhatta-Parsaul

Smoke rises after a clash between farmers and police at Bhatta Parsaul villages
Image caption Land protests broke out in the villages on 7 May

Police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have registered cases against 16 police officers nearly six months after they were accused of rape.

The personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) are accused of committing the crimes during protests by farmers in Bhatta-Parsaul villages.

Villagers had clashed with the police in May while protesting against the government acquisition of their land.

Farmers said they were being forced to give up land for road and industry.

High-profile Congress party MP Rahul Gandhi visited the villages in Greater Noida area - not far from the Indian capital, Delhi - and accused police of killing farmers and raping women during the protests.

The state's governing Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) rejected the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

But on Monday, police acting under court orders registered a case.

"A village woman has lodged a case against an officer of the state paramilitary force PAC and 15 constables for alleged rape," senior police officer Rakesh Jolly told the BBC.

Land protests broke out in the villages on 7 May, and police sealed off the area.

At least two policemen and a farmer were killed as protesters and police fought pitched battles.

Mr Gandhi joined protesters and was briefly detained.

Farmers said they were forced to give up land for an expressway project linking Delhi with Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located.

The demonstrations were part of a series of protests in recent years over attempts to acquire land for industry or infrastructure development in India.

The issue of land acquisition is highly sensitive - about 65% of the population rely on farming.

According to law, the government can requisition any private land for a "public purpose".

The Uttar Pradesh government says farmers have been given generous compensation - farmers disagree.

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