NEW DELHI • The Indian authorities yesterday deployed hundreds of police officers and suspended the Internet in a northern town where the brutal murder of a two-year-old girl has caused inter-religious tensions to flare up.
The Hindu girl was killed over an unpaid loan of US$144 (S$197). Her badly mutilated body was discovered on a rubbish dump on May 31 in Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh state.
Police say the child was thrashed and strangled, and her eyes gouged out.
The Tappal area where she lived has been on edge. The accused men belong to the minority Muslim community there. Hindus are the majority in India, which is officially secular.
Right-wing Hindu groups have led the protests in Tappal, urging the authorities to mete out "instant justice" to the perpetrators.
A prominent leader of the far-right Vishwa Hindu Parishad group was stopped by police from visiting the girl's family on Monday, and on Sunday, members of another radical group gathered to demand the death penalty for the accused.
The groups also tried to organise a "grand assembly", but police thwarted their attempt.
District magistrate Chandra Bhushan Singh cited Section 144 prohibiting unlawful assembly and said yesterday that the Internet had also been suspended in Tappal.
He added: "Additional police forces have been deployed as a precautionary measure. The situation is normal as of now."
Police were also clamping down on those sharing fake social media posts that were likely to "inflame communal passions", reported the Press Trust of India news agency.
Despite police reporting that the child is not believed to have been sexually assaulted, unverified social media posts have claimed otherwise - tapping into deep-seated anger about sexual violence against children in the country.
Nearly 20,000 child rape cases were reported in 2016, according to official data, while a 2014 United Nations report said one in three rape victims was a minor.
On Monday, police arrested a man in central Bhopal city over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child whose body was dumped in a drain.
The same day, three men - including a policeman - were sentenced to life in prison for the gang-rape and murder last year of another eight-year-old girl from a Muslim nomadic tribe in the northern region of Jammu.