Dalit girl allegedly raped, killed and forcibly cremated in India

Written by on August 4, 2021

A nine-year-old girl belonging to India’s marginalised Dalit community has been gang-raped, murdered and forcibly cremated in capital New Delhi, her family alleges.

The gruesome incident sparked a fourth day of protests in the city on Wednesday August 4, 2021, in the latest case of sexual violence targeting the former “untouchable” community, which falls at the bottom of India’s complex caste hierarchy.

The girl’s family alleges a Hindu priest working at a local crematorium and his associates raped her and then cremated her body without their approval on Sunday August 1, 2021.

The family, along with other Dalits and activists, is camping on a road in New Delhi’s Nangal neighbourhood, demanding justice.

The police say they have arrested four accused and opened an investigation into the incident.

The girl, who cannot be identified as per Indian law, had gone to get drinking water from a water cooler at the crematorium, her mother told newsmen on Wednesday August 4, 2021.

“Her father had gone to the market to buy vegetables. An hour passed but she did not return and I got anxious. So I rushed to the crematorium where the priest told me: ‘Your daughter is dead,’” she said.

“I was shocked and asked the priest to tell me how my daughter could die. I told him I wanted to take her to the police station and hospital but he refused, saying, ‘Don’t do that. I will give you money but let’s settle the matter here. You will not be able to fight the case.”

The girl’s mother said Radhey Shyam, the 55-year-old priest, told her that her daughter died of electrocution while filling the water.

“But I felt he was lying,” she told reporters. She insisted on seeing her daughter’s body.

“She was lying lifeless,” recounted the mother, her voice breaking. “There were bruises on her body, her face was pale and her clothes were wet.”

The priest and his associates, meanwhile, locked the gates of the crematorium and forcibly cremated the girl’s body, despite protests from the helpless mother.

As soon as word of the incident spread, the girl’s father and their neighbours rushed to the crematorium. They caught the priest and the three others, who, according to local media reports, confessed to raping the young girl.

The police arrived a little later and took the accused into custody. Cases of gang rape, murder and sexual offences against a child have been registered against the suspects, while the crematorium has been sealed.

Since the day of the incident, hundreds of demonstrators have taken to the streets in New Delhi, demanding the death penalty for the four men accused of the crime.

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