Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday met the family of the nine-year-old Dalit girl who was raped and murdered in Delhi’s Cantonment area, and whose body was forcibly cremated by her attackers.
Public fury has exploded over the horrific incident – the latest to highlight frighteningly high levels of sexual violence in the country – triggering protests by civil society groups and activists, as well as opposition leaders who have targeted Home Minister Amit Shah (to whom Delhi Police reports).
Protestors have also taken to the streets of the national capital, holding banners that say “give justice to the little girl” and demanding the death penalty for the four men accused of the crime.
The residents of Old Nangal – the village in the Cantonment where the girl and her family lived – have been protesting since Sunday night, when the incident was reported.
Mr Gandhi tweeted yesterday, calling the young girl “the nation’s daughter” – a pointed reference to accolades showered on India’s women Olympians, who have been widely referred to as “the country’s daughters” after their medal-winning exploits in Tokyo.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, criticised by some for not speaking out against this atrocity, has said he too will meet the murdered young girl’s family and pledged help to seek justice.
“We’ll help them in all ways in their battle for justice,” he said.
Dalit leader and Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad has already met the girl’s family, and has said his organisation will join protests in Nangal village and offer support.
“This is my own family. She was my sister,” he tweeted, adding to comments critical of Prime Minister Modi, Amit Shah and Mr Kejriwal.
“From Prime Minister to Home minister everyone lives here still there is no sense of safety for women. Why has the Chief Minister not met the victim’s parents yet? He lives only a few kilometres from here,” he said.
The Delhi Commission for Women launched an inquiry into the incident and summoned the city police after the girl”s parents alleged that she was raped and her body was forcibly cremated by a crematorium priest who had falsely claimed that she was electrocuted.
“What was my daughter”s fault? How will I live without her?” the mother of the girl wailed as hundreds of locals, including the victim”s parents, staged a protest for the second day near the site of the incident in Old Nangal area in southwest Delhi, demanding capital punishment for the accused.
“My daughter went to get cold water from crematorium ground when the incident happened. The priest showed me her body for a very brief interval of time. My daughter”s lips were blue. The priest cremated my child without our consent,” the girl”s mother alleged.
The child from an economically backward family lived with her parents in Purana Nangal in the Delhi Cantonment area, close to the crematorium. She had gone to the crematorium last evening to fetch drinking water from the cooler but never returned.
Around 6 pm, some locals who knew the cremation ground priest Radheshyam, called her mother to the crematorium and showed her the body.
They said she got electrocuted while drinking water from cooler. There were burn marks on the child’s wrist and elbow. Her lips were also blue, her mother said.
The priest and his companions then told the girl’s mother not to inform the police. Filing of a case would mean postmortem, where the child’s organs will be stolen, they told her mother, suggesting that a cremation be held immediately.
Apparently they prevailed, locals speculate that the girl’s parents were paid some money as incentive.
But later, the woman and her husband raised an alarm. Around 200 villagers of old Nangal village gathered at the crematorium and the police was informed.
Pratap Singh, a senior officer of the South West district police said they received a call about the case around 10.30 pm. A case has been filed with charges under the stringent laws against child sex abuse and crimes against scheduled castes and tribes.
The investigation is ongoing.