Rape and murder of three school-aged sisters renews public outrage in India

DEAN NELSON
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH

India protest

Protesters attend a rally in New Delhi, India on Dec. 30, 2012, following the cremation of a gang-rape victim in the Indian capital. An appalling new case involving the rape and murders of three young sisters has sparked fresh outrage in the country. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

New Delhi — Three sisters aged six, nine and 11 were raped, murdered and their bodies dumped in a well by an attacker in India who lured them with food, police said Wednesday.

The girls, whose mother is a poor, widowed domestic servant, were last seen outside a cheap roadside cafe selling rice and lentil dhal, and may have decided to follow their killer, or killers, because they were hungry.

The case has provoked fresh outrage in India, where there has been a sharp increase in the reporting of sexual violence since the gang-rape and murder of a Delhi student on a moving bus in December.

Villagers in Maharashtra state protested that police had failed to act after the girls’ grandfather reported them missing last week. When officers found the three girls’ bodies on Saturday, with their school bags and shoes in a well near Murmadi, two miles from their home in Lakhni village, they initially recorded their deaths as accidental.

A post-mortem examination confirmed that the girls had been sexually assaulted. The cause of death has not yet been established. There were no signs of external injuries, police said.

The state’s chief minister promised $15,000 in compensation and an Indian cabinet minister said he was “pained” by the murders.

“We have rounded up a few people for questions and investigations are on,” said Supt. Aarti Singh, a female officer.

“We have few leads and we are working on them. There was delay because the mother was in a state of shock, she didn’t speak at all. We are trying to join the dots from her statement.” She said that one police officer had been suspended and was under investigation for dereliction of duty, but that the focus was on finding the attackers.

Praful Patel, a local MP and industry minister, said that the culprits should be “hanged for this.”

“The survivors should be given speedy justice,” he said.

Child rights campaigners said that the rape and killing of the three sisters highlighted India’s urgent need for a credible child protection system.

“It is often children, particularly girls with single mothers, who are exploited, abused and made to suffer in the deeply patriarchal set-up in India,” said Thomas Chandy, the chief executive of Save the Children India.

“The lack of a strong child protection mechanism exacerbates the problem.”

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