Village council denies ordering sisters' rape
Anger on an international scale erupted last week when news of this petition spread.
Amnesty International called for 300,000 signatures to save two Indian sisters who had allegedly been sentenced by their village elders to being gang-raped for their brother's crime.
TIME reported that the human rights organisation's goal was to appeal to law enforcement to stop the council from executing this punishment on Meenakshi Kumari, 23, and her 15-year-old sister.
According to the Amnesty post, the sisters, who live in Baghpat village in the northen Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, were to be raped and paraded naked with blackened faces, after their brother eloped with a married woman from a higher caste.
The Amnesty International site says that the petition now has close to 319,000 signatures.
But now there is a dispute.
On Thursday (Sept 4), South China Morning Post reported that many people connected to the case have denied that such a rape sentence exists.
The village council has denied ever passing such a sentence on the sisters.
They claim that the majority of their work involves discussing mundane issues, like fixing roads and water pumps.
Local police have also said that they have not been told to facilitate such a punishment.
Even family members of the two sisters have said that they are not sure if the ruling was made.
These family members told Reuters that they had heard about the rape sentence from other villagers.
The sister's father, Mr Dharam Pal Singh 55, said: "It is all hearsay, we don't know if this actually happened."
He identified one of the villagers who told him. That villager said that he too, had heard it from other people.
Reuters reported that Mr Rahul Tyagi, the lawyer for the Singh family (below, facing), had made these allegations in a petition to the Supreme Court last week.
He told Reuters that he stood by his petition, which the family filed because they feared for the safety of the sisters.
He denied that he had not checked his facts.
However, Mr Tyagi did admit that he had never visited the village nor spoken to any of the village elders who allegedly issued the order.
"We have documentary evidence for nine out of 10 things in the case.
"The other things people will not come out with unless there is an independent investigation."
Kumari, the older sister, admitted she didn't know if the council had issued a ruling but said she took the threat seriously. She says that women in India are often punished for crimes they have not committed.
Unelected village councils like the one in Baghpat do mete out rough justice in many parts of rural India, ruling on matters of marriage, property and how women should dress. In rare instances the councils have ordered rape as a punishment.
Said Kumari: "It is a very tough life for women. These things can happen."
Source: TIME, South China Morning Post, Mirror UK, Reuters
Related reports: Thousands sign petition to help sisters sentenced to be gang raped