For 15 days before they learnt of her murder, the family of a 13-year-old Dalit girl, allegedly raped and killed by a relative of their landlord in Gurugram, was kept away from her.
They thought they had little to worry as they had only sent the girl to the relative’s house in Gurugram as a token of goodwill, after their landlord’s wife in Outer Delhi’s Narela, in whose home they had been staying for nearly three years, asked if the teenager could help out her brother’s family that had just had a baby.
According to the family, the 13-year-old had left for Gurugram on 17 July. They last spoke to her in the first week of August, when the Class 7 student told them she was fine and had eaten rice and curry for dinner.
In the following days, the Gurugram family allegedly didn’t pick up calls and when they did, would say the 13-year-old was either asleep or was playing.
The family only grew suspicious a day before Raksha Bandhan on 21 August, when they wanted their daughter back home to celebrate the day with her brother, aged four.
“For days they didn’t allow me to speak to my daughter saying she was asleep or was busy playing,” the mother said. “They even rejected my calls on Raksha Bandhan, when we were planning on having her back at home to celebrate the occasion with her younger brother here.”
Then, on 23 August at around 3 pm, the family received a call from the brother of the landlord’s wife. He allegedly said that their daughter was feeling dizzy, after having had food, and that their landlord’s son would bring her home.
Instead, at around 7.30 pm, the landlord and his relatives showed up at their home with their daughter’s body.
A sobbing mother told ThePrint that all of them claimed that the 13-year-old had died of food poisoning and asked them to cremate the body before 9 pm in the nearby cremation facility.
According to the police complaint lodged by the father, the accused had even got wood and other puja items for the cremation. Their landlord also paid them Rs 1,000 to buy any additional items they wanted to buy for the last rites.
Neighbours say the landlord and his relatives put such pressure on the victim’s parents, that they were about to carry out the cremation.
It was only after the neighbours stepped in, did the parents examine the body and were shocked to see injuries on her face and back.
“We were there at the right time. If it wasn’t for us urging her to call the police, they would have pressured her to burn the body,” said a neighbour who was present when the body was brought to the victim’s home.
The teenager’s mother told The Print they didn’t react as they were utterly shocked by her death.
“They brought our daughter’s body and told us to cremate it in the nearby shamshan ghat, where they said they had arranged everything,” she said. “I was so gutted seeing my daughter’s body that I couldn’t even put myself to ask them why they would do this”.
A brutal crime
Once the police were called in, the extent of the horrific crime began unraveling.
The teenager’s body was sent for a post-mortem to the Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital in Jahangirpuri, Delhi, where it was found that she had been sexually assaulted before her murder.
“Asphyxia consequent upon antemortem manual smothering with positive evidence of vaginal and anal sexual assault. All injuries are antemortem and recent in duration,” reads the autopsy report.
The report, a copy of which was accessed by The Print, came on 25 August, and lists several external injuries, including nail marks on the minor’s face and in her private parts that were found to be “extensively bruised”.
According to police, the 13-year-old was allegedly raped and murdered by the brother of the landlord’s wife in Gurgaon on 23 August.
The Gurgaon Police arrested the brother, the main accused, Monday (August 30).
Subhash Boken, the Gurugram Police spokesperson, told The Print that the main accused has been sent to six-day police custody. “We will investigate and arrest the co-accused, if there’s any, in due time,” he said.
Apart from the main accused, the FIR has been registered against the landlord’s wife, the landlord and another of their close relative, under Indian Penal Code sections of 302 (murder), 120 B (criminal conspiracy), and the SC/ST Act on the basis of the father’s complaint on 25 August.
After the postmortem report, the police added sections of rape and the POCSO Act.
“The others named in the FIR are being questioned,” a senior Gurgaon police officer said. Police are also trying to ascertain if the minor was subjected to sexual assault throughout her stay in the accused’s house.
A request gone wrong
The Dalit family, originally from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, has been living in Delhi’s Narela for the past 10 years, nearly three of which have been spent in the rented accommodation owned by the landlord.
The family said that the landlord and his wife’s request seemed fairly innocuous. The landlord’s wife allegedly coaxed them to send their teenager to her brother’s home, where he lived with his wife, five-year-old daughter and a son who was just born.
The girl’s mother told ThePrint that they thought there was no harm in sending her to Gurugram, as the 13-year-old was doing little at home with her government school in Outer North Delhi having been shut since the lockdown.
“We have been living in their house for almost three years now,” the victim’s mother said. “With my daughter’s school shut, I thought it would be helpful for her if she took care of the relative’s daughter. I had so much respect for them.
“They said our daughter can help do some house chores and assist Praveen’s wife deal with rituals and celebrations of their newborn baby boy”, the victim’s father added.
The victim’s mother works as a domestic help at three homes a day to make a living while her father is a daily wage labourer. They now have two daughters and a son, who are five, eight and four years old respectively. The girls go to a nearby government school while the boy goes to a nursery school. — Courtesy The Print