Rape-murder of 7-year-old heightens outrage in India

Neighbour held over incident; authorities under pressure over series of sexual assaults

NEW DELHI • The body of a seven-year-old girl who had been raped and strangled was found in India yesterday, compounding outrage over a series of horrific sexual attacks on women or girls.

Nationwide protests have been held in the past week over the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir state.

In the latest case, the child's body was found on a building site yesterday, hours after she went missing from a wedding in the Etah district of Uttar Pradesh state.

Police said a neighbour who was putting up tents for the wedding had been detained on suspicion of luring the girl to the secluded building.

"We have charged him with the rape and murder of the child. We are awaiting the post-mortem reports but it looks she was strangled to death," said Etah superintendent of police Akhilesh Chaurasia.

The authorities and police face mounting pressure over a series of sexual assaults, including the Jammu and Kashmir case in January.

Outrage over that case has mounted after details of the rape emerged. Police said the girl was drugged and raped for days at a Hindu temple before being beaten to death. Eight men, all Hindus, have been arrested for the crime.

Police added that the accused targeted the girl because they wanted to drive her nomadic Muslim tribe out of the Hindu-dominated region. Activists yesterday said the case highlighted the vulnerability of nomadic tribes and their lack of land rights.

Two Jammu and Kashmir state ministers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) resigned after they attended rallies organised to defend the accused. Some activists have accused the party of siding with Hindu groups demanding the release of the arrested men.

The BJP government has also faced criticism after one of its legislators in Uttar Pradesh state was arrested last week for the alleged rape of a 17-year-old woman.

The woman's father died in police custody as he agitated for the authorities to take up the case.

Separately, in Pakistan, at least one man was killed and several injured in the city of Karachi yesterday, when a riot broke out in protest at the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl.

Police fired in the air over the crowd and attacked demonstrators with batons as the demonstration boiled over.

The body of the victim was discovered late on Monday. Relatives of the girl and hundreds of residents were angry over what they say has been police laxity in the case. A medical report said the child had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2018, with the headline 'Rape-murder of 7-year-old heightens outrage in India'. Print Edition | Subscribe