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India: Priest suspected of raping, killing little girl

Tanika Godbole
August 3, 2021

A 9-year-old girl in Delhi has allegedly been raped and murdered by a priest and three other men as she went to fetch water at the crematorium. Her death has prompted a protest.

Protest in Delhi against the rape and murder of a woman
Dalit women and children are particularly vulnerable to violent crimes (file photo)Image: Reuters/A. Fadnavis

Indian police have arrested a crematorium priest and three other male employees on suspicion of raping and killing a young girl in New Delhi. The 9-year-old belonged to the Dalit community and lived in Nangal, in southwest Delhi.

The child was subsequently cremated without the knowledge of her parents or authorities, reported national daily Hindustan Times

The girl's family claimed she had gone to bring water from the crematorium's water cooler on Sunday evening, but did not return. 

They were later told that she had died after being electrocuted while drinking water from the cooler. Indian news outlet NDTV reported.

Mother asked not to report girl's death

The priest urged the child's mother not to file a complaint with the police. According to the reports, he tried to mislead her by saying that a police report would lead to a post-mortem examination, and the girl's organs could be harvested.

After the family and a few other locals staged a protest, the police were informed. An officer informed NDTV that they received a call around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, after which they arrested the four crematorium employees. 

"They told her [the girl's mother] that the girl was electrocuted to death while having water from the cooler. They showed her the burn marks on her daughter’s wrist and elbow, and said her lips had turned blue. The four men asked the girl’s mother to not inform the police about the death," Ingit Pratap Singh, the deputy commissioner of police (south-west), told Hindustan Times.

"They told her that the police will register a case and the body will be sent for an autopsy, during which doctors will remove her vital organs and sell them. The four then cremated the body."

Dalits particularly vulnerable to assault, rape

Initially, the police had only registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. After locals protested, the accused have been booked for murder, rape and criminal intimidation, under strict laws regarding child sexual abuse and crimes against scheduled castes and tribes.

Dalits are at the bottom of the South Asian country's caste hierarchy. Women and children from this community are particularly vulnerable to being victims of crimes such as assault and rape.