The alleged rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl from India’s lowest caste has sparked a third day of protests in the capital, in the latest case to spotlight the country’s high levels of sexual violence.
Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in Delhi on Tuesday holding banners reading “Give justice to the little girl” and demanding the death penalty for the four men accused of the crime.
The 200 million-strong Dalit community has long faced discrimination and abuse in India, with attacks increasing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, tweeted that the alleged attack was “barbaric” and “shameful”. “There is a need to improve the law and order situation in Delhi,” he wrote, saying he would meet the girl’s family on Wednesday.
The opposition congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, tweeted that “a Dalit’s daughter is also the daughter of the country”.
The girl’s family told local media she was cremated without their consent and feared she was assaulted by a priest and three crematorium workers. She had gone to the crematorium, which is near the family’s home in south-west Delhi, to fetch water on Sunday.
The four men allegedly called her mother to the crematorium and told her the girl had been electrocuted. The mother was told that if she reported the death to the police, doctors conducting an autopsy would remove her daughter’s organs and sell them, the deputy commissioner of police for south-west Delhi, Ingit Pratap Singh, told the Hindustan Times.
The child’s body was then cremated, Singh said.
Police later arrested four men, who have now been charged with rape and murder, the newspaper reported.
An average of nearly 90 rapes of girls and women were reported in the nation of 1.3 billion people every day in 2019, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau. Large numbers of sexual assaults are thought to go unreported.
Last year, the death of a 19-year-old woman from her injuries after she was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men in Uttar Pradesh caused outrage across India and triggered days of protests.