RAIPUR, India — Indian authorities on Saturday arrested 15 people in connection with the gang rape and killing of a teenage girl, the latest in a recent string of high-profile crimes against women that have set off heated debates about the handling of sexual assaults in the country.
Authorities said a group of men raped the 16-year-old girl multiple times after kidnapping her from Chatra, a village in Jharkhand state, in eastern India, while she was attending a family member’s wedding Thursday.
When the girl was let go the next day, authorities said, village leaders imposed a fine of about $750 on Dhanu Singh Bhuiyan, the young man who was said to have orchestrated her abduction.
That ruling angered Bhuiyan and some of the other men in the community, and they beat the girl’s family for complaining about the treatment of their daughter.
While the girl’s family argued with community members, Bhuiyan, who lived near the victim and knew her well, slipped away from the crowd, cornered the girl in her home and lit her on fire.
Authorities said at least two of the 15 in custody were village leaders accused of tampering with evidence and meting out their own fines and punishments instead of reporting the crime to the police.
“I think it is a degradation in society as a whole for people to take the law into their own hands,” said Jitendra Kumar Singh, deputy commissioner of police in Chatra.
Bhuiyan, who initially escaped through a window after he killed the girl, was captured Saturday, Singh said.
Last month, the killing of an 8-year-old girl from a nomadic community in northern India ignited protests across the country and provoked political fallout for the government, including the resignation of two high-level officials from the governing party.
Critics said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and members of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party failed to speak out forcefully against the crime. The girl, who was Muslim, was gang raped and murdered by a group of Hindu men in January, and Hindu nationalists in the area rallied around the accused to protect them from prosecution.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.