The rape and murder of a six-year-old girl in Saidabad police station limits of Hyderabad was reported on Thursday, September 9. Over the past five days, visitors have steadily been streaming in to console the grieving family. On Tuesday, when TNM visited the slum in Saidabad, several local leaders, youth and student leaders, representatives from rights organisations and NGOs were part of the crowd that had come to meet the family. The heartbroken parents and relatives sat under the shade of a tent, a little away from their house. The mother of the little girl was resting on the shoulder of a relative, grief and exhaustion written on her face. The father of the girl, sat beside his wife, with his palm covering his face as he maintained a stoic silence.
Despite recounting the harrowing story repeatedly to the media, each time the mother reached the part where she spoke about how her daughterâ€™s brutalised body was found, she broke down inconsolably. Speaking to a local channel, the father said, â€śIt has been five days, and we donâ€™t even know whether the man has been caught by the police. We are not being informed of any updates in the investigation. We hope justice will prevail.â€ť
A banner demanding justice for the victim
Speaking to TNM, one of the victimâ€™s aunts narrated what exactly transpired on Thursday, September 9. While the mother was cooking food, the little girl said that she would visit her auntâ€™s house located around the corner, a short distance from her home. She went cheerfully to visit the aunt and later, when she didnâ€™t return for a long time, the family went searching for the girl. They were told that she had visited the auntâ€™s place but that she had left a long time ago. â€śWe searched everywhere but couldnâ€™t find her. There were few policemen deployed as part of the Ganesh festival duties. When we informed them, they said she would have probably gone visiting one of the Ganesh pandals nearby. Soon, the entire slum began looking for her and she was nowhere to be found. They also checked CCTV footage wherever available but found no trace of her,â€ť the aunt recalled.
Even as they searched everywhere, the family suspected their neighbour. â€śHe always remained aloof and when he was at home, he would remain locked in his house. The man was not to be seen all evening and that is when we grew suspicious. There was a talk in the slum that he would often steal for a living. Our daughter was wearing gold earrings when she went missing and we wondered whether he had taken her to steal the earrings. Even at that point, we didnâ€™t think he would do this to her,â€ť said the aunt.
The Hyderabad Commissioner of Police identified the accused as Pallakonda Raju, aged about 30, and announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for any information or clue that will help nab him. According to the family, in the afternoon, the man told the girlâ€™s mother, who was his immediate neighbour, that he was leaving to his native village and that he was taking the key of the house along with him. At that time, the little girl was at home and the mother did not suspect the man's intentions.
In the evening, when the family insisted that they break open the locked door of his house, the police stopped them saying they had no right to barge into someoneâ€™s house without any evidence. A couple of hours later, when they were still unable to find any trace of the girl, the residents of the colony fought with the police and broke open the door of the house. â€śWhen we looked inside, we found a thin mattress rolled and placed at the corner. A banner was used to cover the rolled mattress. We noticed blood and when we opened it, we found the body of the girl,â€ť recalled another relative.
Angered by the turn of events, the people who had gathered at the manâ€™s house broke the walls, a foldable cot, a cooler and many other things.
The house of the accused that was attacked by the angry locals
â€śSeveral hours later, around 3 am, the police came and took away the body of the little girl. We were then handed over the body only on Friday, September 10, in the evening. The final ri tes were then carried out by the family,â€ť revealed another aunt of the victim.
They fondly recalled the little one as a smart, cheerful and loving girl. Seething with rage as she spoke about the accused, one of the aunts said, "He has a daughter who is younger than our child. His wife and daughter were not home for the last few days. He was always so quiet. We never thought he would turn out to be a beast.â€ť
A police patrol car deployed outside the colony
Even after five days after the incident was reported, the police have not managed to arrest the accused as he is on the run. As per sources, the accused doesnâ€™t carry a phone and that has made tracing him a herculean task. The police have been able to collect CCTV footage from the bus stand from where he took a bus. A source revealed that the man was continuously taking one bus after another and this is making it very difficult for the police to trace him. Several special teams have been formed to nab him.