(dpa/NAN) A two-and-a-half-year-old girl was brutally killed in northern India following a family dispute over an unpaid loan, triggering widespread condemnation and outrage across the country.
The toddler was kidnapped in Uttar Pradesh state’s Aligarh district on May 31, and her body was found in a garbage dump near her home three days later, local police said.
Police are looking into torture allegations after her family alleged that she was strangled to death and her eyes gouged out, the IANS news agency reported.
Two men, both neighbours, who had a loan dispute with the victim’s grandfather, were arrested for the murder on Tuesday, district police chief Akash Kulhary said.
One of the suspects had taken a loan of 720 dollars from the girl’s grandfather and still owed him 10,000 rupees over which both had a fight two days before the child was kidnapped, broadcaster NDTV reported.
The victim’s family alleges that the suspect had threatened revenge for his “humiliation,’’ the report said.
Police said medical tests have so far ruled out rape but further examinations were being carried out.
Given the serious nature of the case, the crime will be investigated under the National Security Act, an anti-terror law that enables detention of suspects who pose a threat to national security for a year, it said.
Senior police officer Anand Kumar said a special investigative team had been constituted to fast-track investigations and prosecution to ensure the perpetrators faces the “maximum and toughest punishment.’’
Five police officers have been suspended for negligence and laxity in handling the case.
The brutality of the crime left Indians shaken as a hashtag using the victim’s name trended on the social media and brought the case to national spotlight.
Nearly 50,000 tweets expressing anger and outrage over the killing had been posted since Thursday, with celebrities, politicians and others weighing in, NDTV reported.
Most called for the harshest possible punishment for the killers, terming it a barbaric and evil crime.
“The brutal murder in Aligarh is yet another inhuman, unspeakable crime against an innocent child.
“I cannot even begin to imagine the pain her parents must feel. What has become of us?’’ Priyanka Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party, said on Twitter.
Actor Abhishek Bachchan said he was “disgusted and angered.’’ “How can somebody even think of doing such a thing? Speechless’’ he tweeted.
India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, is also among its most lawless.
Government data shows the state reports a large number of cases of crimes against women and girls, including sexual violence.