In yet another horrific act of violence against women, a 17-year-old Dalit girl was raped and murdered at K Pichampatty village, about 25 km from Karur, in Central Tamil Nadu.

The crime took place on Monday night at a betel farm, police sources said. The suspected persons approached the victim at a place between Sinthalavai and K. Pichampatty when she was riding a bicycle back home from Krishnarayapuram.

Police sources said the attackers “forcefully” took the girl to the farm, where they strangulated her to death after sexually assaulting her. The crime was committed on a 1.5 feet wide slushy path (varappu) in the farm.

The incident came to light when a villager spotted an abandoned bicycle near the farm not far from Pichampatty. He also alerted Ponnusamy, a landless labourer, and other relatives who were waiting for her to return home after her day’s work at a mosquito nets manufacturing unit in nearby Karur, where she was employed temporarily.

They searched the place with torchlights and found the disrobed body of the girl in the betel farm.

As the news spread, a large number of Dalits of the village, which is dominated by caste Hindus, staged a road-roko at Krishnarayapuram demanding the arrest of the culprits. They continued their agitation well into the early hours of Tuesday. Police personnel who rushed to the spot seized the clothes of the victim, her lunch box and bicycle. The police also seized liquor bottles and footwear, purportedly used by the culprits from the crime scene.

“It is a case of rape and murder. We are awaiting the post-mortem report to ascertain the number of persons involved in the crime. We have collected vital clues,” I. Ramasubramani, Inspector General of Police, Law and Order, Central Zone, told The Hindu. As many as seven persons, most of whom belonged to a caste Hindu group from K. Pichampatty, have been taken for enquiry, police sources added.

On Tuesday, the victim’s parents, a large number of Dalits of the village and office-bearers of various Dalit organisations, refused to accept the body, demanding the arrest of the culprits first.

Gathering near the Karur government general hospital, where the body was taken for post-mortem, the agitators blocked road traffic and blamed the police for not taking swift and fair action in the case.

Later, they relented on assurances from S. Rajeswari, Tiruchi S.P., and took the girl’s body to the village amid tight security for the last rites.

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