A day after the body of a seven-year-old girl child was discovered in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district, local police have confirmed a case of sexual assault and murder. The horrific incident came to light after Vani* went missing on Monday. When initial efforts to search for the child in the neighbourhood yielded no results, the parents of the child approached the local police station. Vani's dead body was found by a search team in an alley near the couple's home on Tuesday morning.
On receipt of the autopsy report, the police altered the initial 'missing' report to include sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. Speaking to TNM, investigating officials said that the child had been sexually assaulted multiple times. Police also confirmed that the altered FIR now mentions Indian Penal Section 376A (Punishment for causing death or resulting in persistent vegetative state of victim) in addition to 5(l) (Whoever commits penetrative sexual assault on the child more than once or repeatedly), 5(m) (Whoever commits penetrative sexual assault on a child below twelve years) and 6(Punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.
According to one report in The Hindu, a certificate issued by the Forensic Sciences Department of the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital cited 'ligature strangulation' and 'smothering' as the cause of death. Five accused have reportedly been picked up for questioning.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, the parents of the child conveyed that they suspected four men from their neighbourhood. “They would speak to the child when she walked on the street.” said the parents.
The police had earlier told TNM that the child's body was found in a roughed up state, with her clothes in a state of disarray. The police had also suspected internal injuries. As in a major percentage of cases of child sexual abuse, the police suspected the perpetrator to be known to the girl and from the neighbourhood.
Soon after the incident was reported to the police, the family of the victim and residents of the locality began protesting outside the government hospital on Tuesday afternoon. They alleged police inaction in finding the culprit. The agitation was led by the victim’s mother.
“I searched everywhere for my child. She only plays around this locality and doesn’t go anywhere else,” the mother had told the media. “When we found her there were wounds all over her body and so much blood. We still don’t know who did this,” she said.
On Wednesday, protests intensified in Coimbatore even as the parents of the child refused to take her body, demanding that the accused be arrested. According to reports, the parents were convinced after the police showed them a video of the suspects in custody.
Meanwhile, the All India Democratic Women's Association called for dedicated teams to probe missing of children.