Activists in India are urging police to explain the "inhumane decision" to cremate the body of a rape victim against her family's wishes—and after family members protesting the decision were allegedly beaten. The 19-year-old victim was a Dalit, meaning from the country's lowest caste. She spent two weeks in the hospital after she was gang-raped, strangled, and had her spine broken by at least four upper-caste men in the Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh, reports the BBC and CNN. She died on Tuesday. Amid protests, her body was taken to the family's village around midnight. But it was then seized by police, relatives say, per AFP. The woman's brother says police were pressuring the family to cremate the body immediately. "When we refused, they took the body in an ambulance and cremated her," he tells the BBC, noting male and female relatives were beaten as they tried to see the body.
A district official claimed the family gave its permission. But a journalist who saw the cremation from a distance confirmed that the family's wish to complete rituals with the body before cremation weren't honored. "Police had formed a human-chain to stop the protesting crowds, the family and the media from getting close to the cremation spot," adds Abhishek Mathur. Videos show distraught family members attempting to claim the body. In one, the victim's mother is "sitting on the road in front of the ambulance, weeping and beating her chest," per the BBC. The victim's father is heard saying cremations never take place at night. This one was carried out around 3am local time, per AFP. Four suspects have been charged with the woman's rape and murder. (Read more gang rape stories.)