India: Police guilty of mass rape at 'lower-caste' village

An Indian court found 17 police and forest officials guilty yesterday of raping a group of lower-caste women during a search of their village 19 years ago.

The court also ruled that about 100 other officials had beaten dozens of impoverished people in the village, the Press Trust of India news agency said. The people were Dalits, who are at the bottom of India's caste system.

Officials raided Vachathi village in southern Tamil Nadu state in 1992 to search for smuggled sandalwood. The region is 1,100 miles south of Delhi.

Eighteen women were raped and 100 people badly beaten during the two-day raid. According to the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation, the officials also demolished huts in the village.

The defendants will be sentenced next week and face up to 10 years in jail. The news agency said many of the attackers have died since the incident. Court officials could not be reached immediately for details.

Vachathi is near Sathyamangalam forest, where the notorious smuggler and poacher Veerappan hunted for sandalwood and elephants.

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