Protests have been gathering momentum in the Indian capital, New Delhi, with hundreds of people, including students, activists and human rights watchers, gathering near the city’s historic Jantar Mantar monument.Prakash Singh / AFP – Getty Images

Anger was mounting in parts of India on Wednesday after four men were arrested for the alleged rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl, whose killing has brought into focus both rampant sexual violence, as well as caste prejudice, in the country.

The girl, who has not been named by authorities and belonged to the Dalit community, one of Hinduism’s most oppressed castes, was found dead near a Delhi crematorium Sunday night, Ingit Singh from Delhi Police’s South West District told NBC News over the telephone.

Her whole body was burnt apart from her ankles and feet, he added.

Four men, including the crematorium’s priest, were arrested early Monday on suspicion of gang rape, murder and destruction of evidence, Singh said.

Protests have been gathering momentum in the capital, New Delhi, since the news first broke of the child’s killing. Hundreds of people, including students, activists and human rights watchers, gathered near the city’s historic Jantar Mantar monument.

Even though it is outlawed by the constitution, caste prejudice is rife in Hindu-majority India — and the violence perpetuated against those at the bottom of this hereditary social hierarchy has once again caused outrage.

“The brutality from this incident is barbaric beyond words,” Yogita Bhayana, founder of the women’s rights group People Against Rapes in India, said. “And the saddest part is incidents like these are not rare. We see cases where Dalit women are killed, raped, and tortured daily … only a few come to the limelight.”

There are 200 million Dalits in India, out of a population of 1.3 billion, according to the most recent government census.

According to a 2018 report from the National Crime Records Bureau, 42,793 cases of crimes against Dalits took place that year — in other words, a Dalit was a target of crime every 15 minutes in India on average.

But activists believe the real figure is much higher, as many go unreported out of fear. Dalit women are further marginalized, owing to the social stigma that victims of sexual violence face.

“We are seeing a level of ‘rape apathy’ because cases like these are so common,” said Srishty Ranjan, 24, a Dalit rights activist. “It doesn’t get the coverage it deserves and often if it’s a Dalit victim.”

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