On the heels of the horrific gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in India's northern Jammu & Kashmir state and the rape of another minor in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh state, another case has come to light from the western Gujarat state, where police found the body of a nine-year-old girl with over 80 injuries.
The body of the unidentified girl was found near a cricket field in Bhestan area of Surat city on April 6. The post-mortem revealed that the girl was raped and tortured for at least eight days before being strangled to death.
The police are going through the list of the missing persons to see if the girl was listed among them.
“The girl’s body had 86 injury marks including ones on her private parts. Samples have been taken for forensic tests to ascertain whether she was drugged or not,” said Ganesh Govekar, the forensic head of the government hospital.
Police inspector BK Jhala said, “Even after eight days, the parents of the girl are yet to be identified. The police also believe that she was murdered somewhere else and the dead body has been thrown here. The victim’s picture has been sent to the state police control room for identification process.”
He said police have registered a case of rape and also booked the unidentified accused under The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. A reward of 20,000 rupees (approx. BD116) has been announced for anyone providing information about the girl or her family.
The rapes and murders in Kathua and Unnao have sparked shock and outrage across the country with the BJP being accused of trying to shield the accused in both cases.
In Unnao where the victim’s father died in custody, the CBI arrested the main rape accused - MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar - on Saturday.
Police only brought a case against the powerful politician last week after the young victim attempted to burn herself alive outside state leader Yogi Adityanath's residence. The girl’s father was beaten by the MLA’s brother and sent to jail. He died on Monday, while in police custody.
"We arrested the second person, a woman named Shashi Singh, in our ongoing investigations of the case on Saturday," RK Gaur, a CBI spokesman, told AFP on Sunday.
Sengar appeared in court the same day and was ordered detained for seven days.
The girl's family - who fought unsuccessfully for nearly a year to get police to register their case - said Singh had taken their daughter to the state legislator on the pretext of a job.
Singh then allegedly stood guard at the door while Sengar raped the girl, the family's initial complaint to police stated.
In the Kathua case, two BJP ministers who had opposed the investigation by the crime branch of the Jammu and Kashmir police, finally resigned on Saturday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Friday that the guilty in the crimes will be punished and the victims will get justice.
“As a country, as a society we all are ashamed of it (rapes),” Modi said in his address while inaugurating the Ambedkar memorial in Delhi. “I want to assure the country that no culprit will be spared, complete justice will be done. Our daughters will definitely get justice,” he added. India's women's minister called for the death penalty for child rapists.
In the Kathua case, the police chargesheet says the girl from the Bakarwal nomadic tribe was kidnapped, held in a temple in Kathua’s Rasana village, drugged, repeatedly raped and then murdered to scare her community out of the neighbourhood. Her body was found on January 17, seven days after she went missing.
The crimes have shaken India in a way reminiscent of the fatal gang-rape of a Delhi student on a bus in 2012 that made headlines around the world.