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Women beat 'rape politician' in India, strip his shirt off (+video)

Women beat 'rape politician': Angry over an alleged rape by the local leader of the ruling Congress party, men and women beat the politician before police took him in custody. The incident took place as women in India protest the gang-rape last month that left a woman dead.

By Ashok Sharma and Ravi NessmanAssociated Press / January 4, 2013

New Delhi

In a sign attitudes might be changing, and that even powerful men are being held accountable, police in India's northeastern state of Assam arrested a leader of the ruling Congress party Thursday on accusations he raped a woman in a village in the early hours of the morning.

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Footage on Indian television showed the extraordinary scene of local women surrounding the politician, ripping off his shirt and repeatedly slapping him across the face. Before the women took off his shirt, several men are seen holding him and hitting him with a cane.

Police said the man, Bikram Singh Brahma, was visiting the village of Santipur on the Bhutan border when he entered a woman's house and raped her at 2 a.m. Amid the screams, villagers ran to the home and captured the man, said G.P. Singh, a senior police officer in the area.

"We are taking this issue very seriously," Singh said.

The people holding Mr Brahma initially refused to hand him over, according to the Times of India newspaper. They demanded officers record him confessing to the rape before he was taken away.

This arrest took place the day after the five men accused of raping a university student for hours on a bus last month as it drove through India's capital were charged with murder, rape and other crimes that could bring them the death penalty.

The attack on the 23-year-old woman, who died of severe internal injuries over the weekend, provoked a fierce debate across India about the routine mistreatment of females and triggered daily protests demanding action.

There have been signs of change since the attack. Rapes, often ignored, have become front-page news, politicians have called for tougher laws, including the death penalty and chemical castration for rapists, and the government is examining wide-scale reforms in the criminal justice system's handling of sexual assaults. Activists say the tragedy could mark a turning point for women's rights.

In a nation where court cases often linger for years, the government set up a special fast-track court Wednesday to deal with crimes against woman, and that is where the charges against the five men were filed Thursday evening. The government said it planned to open four more such courts in the city.

Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan filed a case of rape, tampering with evidence, kidnapping, murder and other charges against the men. The charge sheet was not released and he asked for a closed trial. A hearing was set for Saturday.

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