As India celebrated the One Billion Rising movement to fight violence against women on February 14, three little sisters aged five, nine and 11, went missing from their home in a small village in western Indian state of Maharashtra, Indian media reported on Wednesday.
Reports said that four days later, their dead bodies were found in a well on the outskirts of the village, next to a roadside dhaba or eatery.
Autopsies confirmed that the three children were brutally raped and killed before their bodies were thrown into the well. Their tiny slippers were found next to empty liquor bottles.
Police said that the three fatherless children – whose mother worked as domestic help in Lakhni village of Bhandara district and was away from home – were hungry and left home on Thursday afternoon in search of food. They found their way to the dhaba, where they were brutally raped and murdered.
That evening, their mother filed a missing persons complaint with the police. When their bodies were discovered, the police reportedly said the children, driven by poverty and hunger, could have killed themselves. Local residents said it was only when they protested that autopsies were conducted on the bodies. The post-mortem reports confirmed the horrific assault.
The police registered a case of rape and murder and said investigations were underway to trace the unidentified attackers. Nagpur Range Inspector General of Police Rajendra Singh told NDTV, “We have checked out 100 to 150 people and interrogated 10 to 15.”
Six-seven special teams had been formed to probe the incident, police sources said.
Villagers, who were horrified at the three hungry children becoming easy prey to such brutal assault and murder, said they had complained about such dhabas which illegally served liquor and attracted “criminal elements.”