A nine-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped by a crematorium's priest in southwest Delhi's Old Nangal village, following which she died under mysterious circumstances, officials said. According to the police, the girl’s mother has alleged that her body was forcefully cremated without her or her husband’s consent.
The victim, who lived with her parents in a rented house in front of a crematorium in Old Nangal village, reportedly went to get water from a cooler at the crematorium on Sunday at around 5.30 pm. According to the police, the girl left her house after informing her mother but she failed to return till 6.00pm. Soon after, the crematorium's priest, Radhey Shyam, and two-three other people, known to the girl's mother, called her there and showed her, her daughter's body claiming that she got electrocuted while getting water from the cooler.
According to the police, the girl’s mother has alleged that Shyam insisted on cremating her daughter’s body without informing the police to avoid legal tangles. There were burn marks between her left wrist and elbow, and her lips were also blue, a senior police officer said.
The girl was cremated but later the woman with her husband raised a hue and cry that it was done without their consent. A crowd of 200 villagers gathered there and a PCR call was made from the spot, police said.
The PCR call was received at 10.30 pm, following which a team rushed to the spot, they said.
“The situation was brought under control. The woman gave her statement and a case was registered under relevant sections. The priest was taken into custody and a forensic lab team and a crime team were called to collect evidence from the scene,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Southwest, Ingit Pratap Singh, said.
There is no CCTV camera near the crematorium ground to ascertain the sequence of event, police said, adding that locals staged protest and blocked roads in the area.
However, police said that based on the statement of the victim's mother, rape charges have been added in the FIR. Four people, including the priest, have been arrested, they said.
Only the burnt legs of the girl were recovered from the crematorium ground and the post-mortem report is awaited.
A Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) official said the spot, where the watercooler is located has been thoroughly examined as there were reports of electrocution.
When checked by an electrician and analysed experts, prima facie, a heavy flow of current was observed from the cooler, the official said.
The second spot was where the victim was cremated. It was examined and tooth, fractured particles of her skull, along with parts below the ankle were recovered. These were handed over to police which will submit the samples at the lab for further examination, according to the official.
FSL-Rohini Director Deepa Verma said, "Our forensic experts from the Mobile Forensic Crime Scene Unit which is deployed at the Delhi Cantt police station, reached the scene of crime and extended forensic support to the Delhi Police.”
This new set up of six mobile forensic units has facilitated “us to reach crime scenes within the shortest possible time and enable proper collection of scientific evidence that ultimately proves to be critical in crime detection, and successful prosecution”, she said.
In-charge Crime Scene Management Division of the FSL Sanjeev Gupta said, “Experts have collected few crucial scientific evidence from the spot which have been handed over to the investigating officer for submitting it to the Rohini laboratory for further DNA profiling and forensic identification."
The four arrested people are priest Radhey Shyam, Kuldeep, Laxmi Narain and Salim, police said, adding that they have been sent to judicial custody.
The statement of the complainant has been recorded under section 164 of the CrPC, SC/ST Act and POCSO Act, they said.
The girl’s mother has given her statement in front of a schedule castes and schedule tribes (SC-ST) committee and alleged that her daughter was raped, police said.
Sections 302 (murder), 376 (punishment for rape) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the India Penal Code have been added in the FIR following the mother’s statement, they said.
Police said that only legs of the deceased were recovered and it is very difficult to ascertain whether she was raped or not.
They said that the accused will be interrogated.
A neighbour of the girl’s family said that the priest had no right to cremate her without the consent of the family.
“When I came out of my house around 10 pm on Sunday, I saw people gathered near the girl’s house. I asked a woman who informed me about the incident,” she said.
“Later, I got to know that the priest cremated her without her parent’s consent. How can he do that. If she was electrocuted, then she should have been taken to a hospital,” the neighbour said.
She also said that the girl's parents were ragpickers and she was their only child.
According to a statement, Delhi Women and Child Development Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam visited old Nangal to meet the victim's family.
“This is a very shocking matter. I have spoken to the DCP and DM here. I asked them that the matter should be investigated in a fast-track manner. The statement of the parents should be immediately recorded without any delay,” he said.
“There should be fair and free investigation in the matter. If we feel that the investigation is not carried out properly then the Delhi Government will conduct a magisterial inquiry,” Gautam said in the statement.
Gautam also said, “We will talk to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and provide compensation to the girl's family as soon as possible and will also provide necessary legal assistance if needed.”
(With PTI inputs)