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2 Indian officers fired for inaction after rapes

Students at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi Friday protested the gang rape and killings of two teenage cousins.

Manish Swarup/Associated Press

Students at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi Friday protested the gang rape and killings of two teenage cousins.

LUCKNOW, India — Facing relentless media attention and growing criticism for a series of rapes, state officials in north India fired two police officers Friday for failing to investigate the disappearance of two teenage cousins who were gang-raped and later found hanging from a tree.

But in a country with a long history of tolerance for sexual violence, the firings also came as the state’s top official mocked journalists for asking about the attack.

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‘‘Aren’t you safe? You’re not facing any danger, are you?’’ Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said in Lucknow, the state capital. ‘‘Then why are you worried? What’s it to you?’’

The gang rape, with video of the girls’ corpses hanging from a mango tree and swaying gently in a breeze, was the top story Friday on India’s 24-hour news stations.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state, with nearly 200 million people.

Official statistics say about 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. But activists say that number is too low, because women are often pressed by family or police to stay quiet.

On Friday, the state’s former chief minister lashed out at the ruling government.

‘‘There is no law and order in the state,’’ said Mayawati, who uses only one name. ‘‘It is the law of the jungle.’’

Hours later, the chief minister ordered that suspects in the attack be tried in special fast track courts, to get around a notoriously slow judicial system.

The girls, who were 14 and 15, were raped in the tiny village of Katra.

Police say they disappeared Tuesday night after going into fields near their home to relieve themselves, since their house has no toilet.

The father of one girl went to police that night to report them missing, but he said they refused to help.

When the bodies were discovered the next day, angry villagers silently protested the police inaction by refusing to allow the bodies to be cut down.

The villagers allowed authorities to take down the corpses after the first arrests were made Wednesday. Police arrested two police officers and two men from the village.

On Thursday, officials suspended two police officers for ignoring the father’s pleas for help. They were fired Friday.

There have been a string of recent high-profile attacks in Uttar Pradesh.

Three men were arrested for allegedly attacking the mother of a victim after she refused to withdraw her complaint.

On Wednesday, a 17-year-old woman was attacked in a field and raped by four men, police said. One man has been arrested.

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