Police have formed teams to track down the accused - brothers Pawan and Ashok Nishad.
A 19-year-old woman was hacked to death in broad daylight in Uttar Pradesh's Kaushambi district by two brothers, including the man accused of raping her, police said Tuesday morning. Police said the killers - Ashok and Pawan Nishad - had been released on bail a few days before the brutal murder.
Police said the woman - butchered with an axe on the main road as scared villagers watched helplessly - had accused Pawan Nishad of raping her three years ago, when she was a minor. Pawan (and his associates) had been harassing the woman, since then, to get her to drop the case filed against him.
Pawan's brother, Ashok Nishad, is an accused in a separate murder case and was released less than two days before the young woman's murder, police added. Pawan was out of jail by this time and the two plotted to confront the woman's family and force them to close the case, police explained.
However, the young woman refused to back down, after which the brothers ambushed and slaughtered her as she was returning from grazing her family's cattle at a nearby field, police said.
Pawan and Ashok Nishad are now on the run, police added.
"There was a dispute between two parties in the same community regarding an old rivalry and litigation... members of one party killed the girl with a sharp weapon. A police complaint was filed and the accused have been booked," Kaushambi Superintendent of Police, Brijesh Srivastava, said.
The horrific incident took place at the Dherha village. The police have sent the woman's body for a post-mortem examination and have formed teams to arrest the accused, Mr Srivastava added.
The murder has triggered a predictable political row in the BJP-ruled state. The opposition Congress' state office posted a brief video on X (formerly Twitter) showing police covering the woman's body.
"In Kaushambi, two brutes publicly killed a girl by cutting her with an axe. One criminal had come out on bail just two days ago in a murder case. The other was accused of raping the same deceased girl."
"... brutes in UP are so fearless they have no fear of law... no respect. Here, the daughters are so unsafe that if they raise their voice about their stolen honour, they may even have to lose their lives," the opposition party said in its post, ""When will this darkness of the dark city go away?"
The murder has once again focused attention on the UP government's record on preventing crimes against women. And it comes just two months after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath declared 'Yamraj (the Hindu god of death)' would exact retribution against anyone who harassed or harmed women.
The Chief Minister's grand remark came after a teen was killed in UP's Ambedkar Nagar district.
READ | "Yamraj" Waiting For You: Yogi Adityanath Warns Those Harassing Women
Two men on a motorcycle pulled on her clothes as she was riding a bicycle, causing her to fall and be hit by an oncoming vehicle. Police said she died on the spot.
According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, UP recorded over 56,000 cases of crimes against women in 2021 - the most of any state. This includes, rape, rape and murder, and acid attacks.