A gruesome murder has come to light in Telangana after the Jadcherla police in Mahbubnagar district recovered the body of a Class 10 girl student, in the early hours of Thursday. The police said that the minor, who hailed from Shankaryapally village, went missing on August 27, and was murdered by a person she met on Facebook. The accused has been identified as Naveen Reddy, said to be in his late 20s.
"On August 27, the girl's father filed a complaint stating that his daughter was missing. Since she was a minor, we registered a kidnap case and collected CCTV footage and issued a lookout notice. Within two days, we managed to trace one Naveen Reddy," the investigating officer told reporters.
Jadcherla Circle Inspector told TNM that Naveen kept telling her that she had to be friends with him, and that she had to meet him. "He came to visit her on the 27th and the duo decided to go to an open space like a field to speak. In a car on the way there, he shared his sexual intent with the girl. At the time, the girl tried to get down from the car and escape. When she tried to get down, he tried to sexually assault her. When she resisted, they got down, he knocked her down and then took a stone and hit her on the head," he said.
The police said that the accused took them to the spot on Thursday morning and showed them the minor's body. Following this, a forensic team visited the spot and collected evidence.
Investigation officials said that the case had now been changed to Section 302 (Murder) of the IPC. The body was taken to a nearby government hospital for an autopsy.
Speaking to TNM, the investigating officer said, "According to what the accused told us, the duo had been talking for around 3 months on Facebook. As of now, there is no suspicion of sexual assault. We will get more clarity after the post-mortem report."
Several agitated locals also staged a protest outside the police station on Thursday, raising slogans demanding justice, and swift action against the accused.
Further investigation is presently ongoing. Ex-Health Minister and sitting Jadcherla MLA C Laxma Reddy also took note of the incident and assured the family of a speedy investigation and trial.
Online sexual grooming is a worldwide phenomenon, that has spread along with the speed and easy access to the internet. According to UNICEF, it can be defined as preparing a child or adult for sexual abuse, exploitation, or ideological manipulation. A report released by the organisation in 2014 states that the surge in mobile and internet usage in India had brought 400 million people online. Of this, seven percent of internet users in the country are reportedly children.
A report by the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology in 2014 recognised the threat posed to children by predatory paedophiles online. It emphasises how these predators "conceal their true identity whilst using the internet to â€˜groomâ€™ potential victims for sexual purposes."