The Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, on Wednesday ordered a judge-led investigation into the alleged rape, murder and forced cremation of a nine-year-old girl. The girl belonged to the Dalit caste, which has historically endured oppression, deprivation and extreme discrimination at the hands of India’s upper-caste Hindus.
The Delhi police arrested four individuals in connection with the heinous crime two days after it was committed amid rising protests demanding death penalty for the accused. The four suspects include an upper-caste Hindu priest, Radhey Shyam, and three of his associates—Kuldeep, Laxmi Narain and Saleem.
The girl’s family alleged that the girl went to the crematorium on Sunday evening to get cold water. Later, the priest summoned the girl’s mother to the crematorium and informed her that her daughter died due to electrocution. Further, the priest allegedly told the mother not to report the death because the girl’s organs would be stolen during the post mortem. Thereafter, the accused cremated the girl’s body without the mother’s consent. The funeral pyre was only extinguished after the mother’s cries were heard by nearby residents and she shared her suspicions that her daughter had been raped.
However, the medical board constituted to investigate the cause of death informed the police that the cause of death could not be determined because only burned remains were recovered from the funeral pyre. Initially, the police charged the accused only with culpable homicide, wrongful confinement and destruction of evidence. However, after protests erupted and the family gave a statement to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the police added rape charges as well. Kejriwal assured the protestors and the general public that “top lawyers will be engaged to get the culprits punished.”
Meanwhile, the Delhi Commission For Women issued summons to Delhi police to produce the complete case file and report the actions taken by them in the matter. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights also took suo moto cognizance of the case and ordered the Delhi police to furnish a detailed report on the matter.
In September 2020, a similar case was reported in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, when a 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped by upper-caste men. After she died in the hospital, the police allegedly hurriedly cremated her body without the family’s consent.
Sexual violence against women in India has been on a rise in recent years. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau in September 2020, crime against women increased by 7.3% in India in 2019, with over 32,000 registered cases of rape. Furthermore, crimes against Scheduled Castes also increased by 7.3% during the same period.