Five alleged rapes, mostly of minors, within five days in the northern Indian state of Haryana, has forced the issue of sexual violence back onto India’s national agenda, provoking widespread condemnation.
Last Friday evening, the half-naked body of a 15-year-old girl was found floating in a canal in Jind district, roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) west from the capital New Delhi. Her numerous injuries, both internal and external, were consistent with those of gang rape, according to the police officer leading the investigation.
The girl, who has not been named under laws meant to protect the victims of sexual assault, had gone missing from her home in the village of Jhansa on January 9. A primary suspect in the case, a 18-year-old male student allegedly known to the victim, was found dead on Tuesday in what police have described as a decomposed state. The discovery of the young man’s body has complicated the ongoing investigation and put pressure on police efforts.
And that pressure is building.
The incident was just one of four alleged incidents of sexual assault to occur in Haryana in the space of 72-hours.
- On Saturday, the semi-naked body of an 11-year-old girl was found dead in the district of Panipat. Again, her injuries were consistent with gang rape.
- On Sunday, a 22-year-old woman was abducted from a bus stop on a busy road while on her way home from work. She was bundled into a SUV and raped repeatedly by a group of men, before being dumped by a gas station in Sikri.
- Also on Sunday, in Pinjore district, a 50-year-old man is alleged to have sexually assaulted a 10-year-old with a wooden object.
- These cases were followed Tuesday with the alleged rape of a three-year-old girl in Hisar district by a 15-year-old boy, taking the total number of reported rapes in the state to five in five days. The boy, also a minor, has been kept under police observation, according to local authorities.
There is no indication the cases are linked.
Police have so far arrested two men in the case of the 11 year old from Panipat district, both of whom were neighbors of the child. They have also arrested two men in Sunday’s gang rape case, and are on the hunt for two more.
Responding to accusations of police negligence, RC Mishra, a senior police officer in Haryana, told reporters Wednesday that “Rape is a part of society. This incident isn’t just happening now, it’s been happening for a long time.”
According to the most recent statistics, a total of 1187 cases of rape were registered in Haryana in 2016. The state, which borders Delhi, is home to approximately 25 million people.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the state’s top elected official, called the incidents “unfortunate” and promised to “tie up all loose ends.”