Behrampore, Jan. 17: An eight-year-old schoolgirl was raped and then murdered in Murshidabad district in a haunting reminder of the Hetal Parekh case.
Rupa Haldar, a Class II student of the state-sponsored Swaruppur Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar Primary School had been missing since she left home in Swaruppur village in Hariharpara area of the district, 230 km from Calcutta, on Saturday morning.
Early this morning, an 11-year-old boy of the village saw a hand sticking out of the ground in a mustard field. The boy raised the alarm and villagers rushed to the spot and dug out Rupa's body, which had been mutilated in several places with a sharp weapon.
The girl's death spread shockwaves. Traders downed shutters and observed a bandh. Residents of the area put up roadblocks on Swaruppur-Hariharpara Road and demonstrated for several hours. The All India Democratic Students' Organisation has called a strike in educational institutions in Hariharpara to protest against the incident.
The traders likened Rupa's case to that of schoolgirl Hetal Parekh, who was raped and murdered in 1990 by Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a guard.
'Hetal Parekh was also a schoolgirl and in her case the culprit was hanged. We demand that Rupa's murderer be arrested immediately and given exemplary punishment,' said Oliul Haque, the secretary of Swaruppur Byabsayee Samity.
Swaruppur residents said Rupa had returned from school around 11 am, changed her uniform and gone out to play. 'Rupa was last seen in front of Sheetal Haldar's house. She was sitting with 14-year-old Ashique Haldar,' said Anjali Haldar, a neighbour.
A few villagers have told the police, who are on the lookout for Ashique, that they had seen the boy leave on a trekker.
Preliminary investigations reveal that Rupa was first raped and then murdered, said police superintendent Sanjay Singh. The police do not rule out the involvement of more than one person. 'The killer dug a shallow grave. It is difficult for one person to dig a grave,' an official said.
Rupa's father, Swapan, rushed to Swaruppur today with his wife and children when he learnt of his daughter's murder. Swapan works in a sweet-making factory in Rampurhat in Birbhum district and stays there with his wife and three children. Rupa, the youngest of four siblings, used to stay with her grandmother, Chapala, in Swaruppur.
'Not even in my worst dreams did I think that my granddaughter would be killed in such a gruesome manner,' said Chapala.