By Betwa Sharma
NEW DELHI — It was close to ten in the night on Wednesday, but the residents of one Dalit-dominated neighbourhood in the Delhi Cantonment area were wide awake.
While people from near and far were gathering outside the entrance of the neighbourhood to start what they said would be a long movement to seek justice for the nine-year-old Dalit girl who was allegedly raped, murdered and forcibly cremated by four men including a Hindu priest on 1 August, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Jayprakash Narayan Yadav offered his condolences to the mother of the girl, who sat with folded hands in the dimly lit room of her tiny house, her face hidden behind a veil.
Yadav was one in the long line of politicians who have visited neighbourhood since the news of the grisly gang rape of the young Dalit girl in the national capital has triggered outrage across the country.
The police have arrested four men — the Hindu priest, Radhe Shyam, along with Laxmi Narayan and Kuldeep who worked with the priest, and Salim, a resident of the area, and booked them for various offenses including rape and murder.
Neighbours told us that the nine-year-old girl helped her mother make a living by picking up rubbish and begging near the shrine of Pir Baba, a saint revered by the Muslim community, and a five-minute walk from the one-room house they rent.
Speaking from behind her veil, the mother told us about the horrific crime and attempted cover-up that unfolded on the evening of 2 August.
The mother recalled that her daughter was perfectly fine till 5:30 pm in the evening, when her father left to buy vegetables and she left for the Pir Baba shrine. When the “pandit ji” found her, he told her that her daughter was dead, electrocuted at the crematorium where she had gone to get cold water, she said.
“The pandit ji said, ‘Your daughter is dead.’ I said, ‘How can she be dead, she was just playing.’ He said, ‘Your child got current while she was filling water.’”
When she went with the Hindu priest to the crematorium, the mother said she saw what remained of her daughter.
“My girl’s clothes were wet. She was laid out on a bench and her clothes were wet. Her lips were black. Her hands had bruises. Her skin was peeling off. When I tried opening her teeth a little, I could not. It was black inside. Her tongue was black,” said the mother.
“There was blood coming from her nose. There was water coming from her mouth,” she said.
As she dipped in and out of a semi-conscious state, the mother alleged that the Hindu priest forced her to be part of a cover-up, while telling her that there would be no point in her informing the police.
“Pandit ji said, ‘If you call this 100 number, the police will take her away to the hospital and do a post mortem. The doctors and policemen will sell her. Don’t do this to your daughter,’” she said. “I just fainted. I couldn’t think.”
The Hindu priest tried forcibly cremating her daughter, the mother alleged.
“Pandit ji set fire to the wood,” she said.
As the funeral pyre started burning, the mother said that the Hindu priest kept trying to convince her not to speak about the horrors that were unfolding before her eyes.
“Pandit ji said, ‘You are a person who picks up rubbish. How will you go to court and fight a case?’” she said.
“He said, ‘We will do the last rites of the child right here. You don’t take this to the court, you don’t take this to the tehsil, your case will not be fought. Nothing will happen,’” she said.
The mother told us that she begged the Hindu priest to let her go back to her neighbourhood.
“I said, ‘Let me go to my community. Let me go to Nangal.’ Pandit ji took my hand and made me sit inside. He closed the gate. By that time, the wood was catching fire. Pandit ji said, ‘Will you eat food?’ I said, ‘Pandit ji, I will not eat food.’”
“He said, ‘You should go home and sleep quietly. Don’t say anything, don’t make any hallah (commotion), and don’t make any shor (noise).’”
The mother said she ran back to her neighbourhood, shouting and crying.
“I couldn’t stop myself. I was screaming. I was crying. I was falling. I was shouting, ‘My child, my child, my child.’ The people of the community asked me what had happened. I said, ‘Pandit ji has killed and burnt my child.’”
The mother said that some members of the Dalit community rushed to the crematorium and pulled out what remained of her daughter from the funeral pyre.
“When they pulled her out, she was half burnt and half not burnt,” she said.
“I want justice for my daughter. I want justice for my daughter. Hang those barbarians,” the mother said. “I want justice for my daughter. I want justice for my daughter. Hang those barbarians.”
“If you can’t do it, give them to the country, to our community, then our community will on its own…” the mother said.
“I can’t speak more than this. I’m very troubled, I have not eaten since the morning,” she said.
When we asked why her girl did not go to school, the mother said, “I kept her wrapped around my neck. I did not let her go for one second. I was not in a condition to send her to school. Why? I pick up rubbish and then I go to Pir Baba and beg,” she said.
This story first appeared on indiaaheadnews.com