Three get death sentences for rape and murder of four-year-old
Renewed outrage in India after another child is brutally raped
A court in central Madhya Pradesh state sentenced three men to death for the rape and murder of a four-year-old girl on Friday in a case which has attracted less international attention than the more recent rape of a five-year-old in New Delhi but has prompted outrage in India.
In chaotic scenes, the crowd outside the courthouse in Indore, the state capital, tried to attack the three defendants – named as Babu, Jitrenda and Sunny – but were held back by police.
Judge Indra Singh called the crime the “rarest of the rare” after handing down the three death sentences despite an appeal by the defense who said the men were young and deserved leniency. All three are in their early twenties.
Autorickshaw driver Babu and his two unemployed friends were found guilty of abducting the four-year-old victim after she accompanied her father to a hospital in Indore for treatment for his tuberculosis in June last year.
After watching a marriage procession late in the evening, the girl then went missing. Her body was later found with a smashed skull in a drain close to a police station.
Police tracked down the three men responsible after they left a cheque and a note near the body in an apparent attempt to pay compensation. They were captured about 50 miles south of Indore in the town of Omkareshwar preparing to flee, police said.
The case is among the most gruesome in a string of high-profile recent rape cases in India that have sparked outrage inside the country and lurid headlines in international media.
Last month, a Swiss woman was raped in Madhya Pradesh during a cycle tour and on Saturday a six-year-old girl was raped in New Delhi in a public toilet, just a few days after a five-year-old was abducted and raped during a two-day ordeal.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come under rising criticism from rival political parties with every new case, particularly in Madhya Pradesh, which has recorded the highest number of rape cases in the country in recent years. Government statistics show there are nine rapes a day and 25 gang rapes every month there.
Madhya Pradesh opposition Congress Party leader Ajay Singh said that the BJP has lost the "moral right to continue" in office as an “anarchy-like situation" prevails in the state with no safety for women and children.
“What we see is nothing but the absolute collapse of law and order,” said Badal Saroj, secretary of the Communist Party’s state unit.
In response to criticism, the government has attempted to fast-track the prosecution of rape cases, while in Madhya Pradesh State Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has ordered the establishment of a new 'neighborhood watch' scheme of community law enforcement modeled on the UK.
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