“Your daughter will be cremated. What had to happen has happened. No need to scream now. We’ll settle this here,” Tara’s mother recalled Radhey Shyam telling her.
Tara, a nine-year-old Dalit girl, was allegedly gangraped, murdered and forcibly cremated at the Delhi Cantt crematorium on August 1. The police have arrested four men – Radhey Shyam, 55, Lakshmi Narayan, 43, Kuldeep, 63 and Salim, 49 – and booked them for gangrape, murder and under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Radhey Shyam is a priest at the crematorium. – Newslaundry
The girl belonged to the Dalit community, one of Hinduism’s most oppressed castes, was found dead near a Delhi crematorium on Sunday night, Ingit Singh from Delhi Police’s South West District told NBC News over the telephone.
Her whole body was burnt apart from her ankles and feet, Singh added.
“The brutality from this incident is barbaric beyond words,” Yogita Bhayana, founder of women’s rights group, People Against Rapes in India, told NBC News. “And the saddest part is incidents like these are not rare. We see cases where Dalit women are killed, raped, and tortured daily… only a few come to the limelight.”
There are 200 million Dalits in India, out of a population of 1.3 billion, according to the most recent government census. Dalits are poor and despite laws to protect them, they continue to be subjected to daily discrimination from the upper castes and the authorities.
And Dalit women face the triple burden of poverty, gender bias and caste discrimination.
According to a 2018 report from the National Crime Records Bureau 42,793 cases of crimes against Dalits took place that year — in other words, a Dalit was a target of crime every 15 minutes in India on average.
But activists believe the real figure is much higher, as many go unreported out of fear. Dalit women are further marginalized, owing to the social stigma that victims of sexual violence face.
“We are seeing a level of ‘rape apathy’ because cases like these are so common,” said Srishty Ranjan, 24, a Dalit rights activist. “It doesn’t get the coverage it deserves and often if it’s a Dalit victim.”
The incident is drawing comparisons with last year’s gang rape and murder of a Dalit teen by four upper-caste men in the town of Hathras in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. That incident had caused global outrage after police forcibly cremated her body despite her family’s protests.
Dalits, who are placed at the bottom of the unforgiving Hindu caste hierarchy, remain among India’s most downtrodden citizens.
On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Nangal cremation ground, demanding the death penalty for the accused.
Since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi, rape and sexual violence have been under the spotlight in India.
That attack saw days of protests and forced changes to the country’s rape laws, but there has been no sign of crimes against women and girls abating.
According to recent crime figures, every fourth rape victim in India is a child. In an overwhelming number of rape cases, the victims know the perpetrators.