Judicial inquiry ordered into alleged rape of nine-year-old girl in Delhi

Local officials launch review as Indian government remains silent and protests continue into fourth day

A judge-led inquiry has been ordered into the alleged rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Delhi, as public anger mounts over the Indian government’s silence on the horrific case.

As protests continued for a fourth day amid renewed scrutiny on India’s problem with sexual violence, opposition politicians – including the Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi, who met the girl’s family on Wednesday, and the prominent Dalit politician Mayawati – demanded justice.

Other politicians have demanded action by the home minister, Amit Shah. No ruling party politician or minister has yet made any statement of regret or concern.

Arvind Kejriwal, the head of Delhi’s provincial government who also leads an opposition party, ordered a judicial review of the case. He called for the central government to act on crime. “Top lawyers will be engaged to get the culprits punished,” Kejriwal said on Twitter. “Central government should take strict steps to improve law and order in Delhi, we will cooperate fully.”

Responding to the public mood, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has sought a police report within 48 hours. The Delhi Commission for Women has summoned police officers to explain what action they intend to take. Several Bollywood celebrities have vented their disgust on social media.

The gruesome details of the case have appalled Indians, renewing anger and frustration over seemingly unending sexual violence against women.

Police have alleged that the girl, who belongs to a Dalit (low caste) family, was killed after she went to fetch water from a crematorium near her house in the city’s Cantonment area on Sunday. Her family told media the perpetrators cremated her body against their wishes.

Four men had been arrested in connection with the girl’s murder, said Ingit Pratap Singh, the top police officer in the south-west of the capital, where the alleged crime took place. They face charges of murder, rape and criminal intimidation, he added.

The girl’s parents allege that four crematorium workers raped and murdered her.

When the mother saw her daughter’s body, it is alleged the four men claimed she had been accidentally electrocuted near the water tap and warned her not to report the death to the police because an autopsy would lead to doctors stealing her organs.

At first, the mother – shocked and overwhelmed – agreed to their suggestion of an immediate cremation. “They … even got the red cloth to wrap her,” she told local media.

Meanwhile, the mother’s cries were heard and about 200 villagers turned up and, on hearing her say she suspected her daughter had been raped, began to extinguish the pyre.

However, doctors who carried out a postmortem on Tuesday said the fire made it impossible for them to determine the cause of death.

Hundreds of people have protested since the incident, blocking roads and calling for accountability for the death.

The forced cremation has awakened memories of a gang-rape last September in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, when a Dalit woman, the victim of an assault by upper-caste men, was cremated at night by police without the family’s consent.

Despite much public handwringing over the urgent need to overhaul how the country’s men treat women, observers have voiced dismay that little has changed. One example of this is how some judges, though small in number, continue to believe that a rape complainant marrying the man she accuses is a “solution” to her problems.

Last August, Rajesh Roy, 24, was arrested in Uttarakhand state for raping a young woman. He was allowed out on conditional bail by a court after he agreed to marry his victim. Both families agreed to the marriage as a way of safeguarding their “honour”. In June, he took his wife on a “holiday” to the Himalayan resort town of Nainital and allegedly pushed her off a cliff to her death.

As recently as March, the chief justice of India at that time, Sharad Arvind Bobde, faced calls to resign after asking during a bail hearing whether a man accused of rape would marry the complainant.

As old attitudes remain, the violence continues. About 34,000 rapes were reported in 2018, the last year for which official government statistics were available.

Chandra Shekhar Azad, the head of the Bhim Army Dalit rights organisation, said protests over the girl’s rape and murder would continue until Shah agreed to a “fast track” court to provide swift justice.

“Look at the Hathras case,” he said. “A year later, no one has yet been punished. If this can happen to little girls in the capital of the country, what hope is there for women in the villages?”

Azad’s group held a candlelit vigil at India Gate at 5pm on Wednesday. Apart from speedy punishment, he wants the government to give 1m rupees as compensation and a government job for one member of the family.

Contributor

Amrit Dhillon in Delhi

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
India's rape problem is exaggerated, says minister for women
Maneka Gandhi says media stories are driving away tourists and claims country is among lowest four in the world for rape cases

Vidhi Doshi in Mumbai

23, Nov, 2016 @11:37 AM

Article image
Indian women wear cow masks to ask: are sacred cattle safer than us?
Kolkata artist Sujatro Ghosh’s latest project points to country’s veneration of cows to highlight rising violence against women

Michael Safi in Delhi

04, Jul, 2017 @1:20 AM

Article image
Delhi rape victim's parents call for her real name to be used to end stigma
Woman gang-raped in 2012 has been known by pseudonym Nirbhaya because of Indian laws against naming rape victims

Michael Safi

16, Feb, 2017 @11:12 AM

Article image
Indian women still unprotected five years after gang-rape that rocked nation
Report finds willingness to report sexual offences has grown but women often harassed by police or bullied into silence

Michael Safi in Delhi

08, Nov, 2017 @3:53 PM

Article image
'If you saw her body, you will never sleep again': despair as India rape crisis grows
Killings of a six-year-old girl and a vet are just two examples of a problem that appears to be getting worse

Hannah Ellis-Petersen in Rajasthan

06, Dec, 2019 @11:47 AM

Article image
Delhi police set up all-female motorbike squad to tackle crime against women
Five years after shocking gang rape, rapid response unit aims to combat assault and harassment in India’s crowded capital

Amrit Dhillon in Delhi

22, Nov, 2017 @12:35 AM

Article image
Protests escalate in India over gang-rape and murder of woman
MPs speak out in parliament and demonstrators take to streets over killing of 27-year-old vet

Hannah Ellis-Petersen South Asia correspondent

02, Dec, 2019 @1:38 PM

Article image
Student’s rape and murder puts India’s sexual violence under spotlight again
Despite new laws to combat the problem, a rape is reported every 15 minutes, leaving victims and families crying out for justice

Aakash Hassan in Delhi

11, Jun, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
'A feeble no may mean yes': Indian court overturns rape conviction
Activists say Delhi high court’s decision in case of film director Mahmood Farooqui sets a worrying precedent on consent

Michael Safi in Delhi

26, Sep, 2017 @2:50 PM

Article image
India: woman set on fire on way to testify against alleged rapists
Woman left with 70% burns in latest attack as film director’s tweets on rape cause outcry

Hannah Ellis-Petersen South Asia correspondent

05, Dec, 2019 @12:57 PM