Behrampore, Jan. 25: Six boys aged between 10 and 14 were arrested last night for killing Rupa Halder, an eight-year-old girl whose mutilated body was found in a mustard field last Monday.
Ashique Haldar, Milan Das, Feroz Sheikh, Jayanta Haldar, Utpal Pal and Rajesh Haldar murdered Rupa at Hariharpara, 230 km from Calcutta, because she saw them stealing vegetables.
Rajesh is a student of Class III and Jayanta and Utpal of Class IV of Swaruppur Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar Primary School, where Rupa was in Class II. Feroz is in Class VII of a local high school, while Ashique and Milan are dropouts.
Rupa had been missing since she left home after returning from school on January 15. She was found buried in a shallow grave in the mustard field two days later.
Murshidabad superintendent of police Sanjay Singh said: 'The arrested boys gave us a graphic description of how they committed the crime.'
Seeing the boys pluck vegetables, Rupa said she would tell the elders about it. Singh said: 'They immediately gave her a chase. After running a distance, she fell down and the boys caught up. Ashique throttled her to death and then they hid her body under a culvert on the deserted village road.'
The next night, the boys pulled out Rupa's body from under the culvert and dragged it to the mustard field on the outskirts of the village.
One of her hands was sticking out and a villager spotted it. The body bore countless stab wounds.
The police had initially suspected rape, but the postmortem has ruled that out.
An officer said Ashique and Milan used to drink alcohol and smoke ganja. 'These two were bad company for the rest of the boys.'
The hunt for Ashique began the day Rupa's body was discovered as he was the last person she was seen talking to. The police picked up Ashique and Feroz on Saturday, but released them after questioning. Milan was the next in the net and he blurted out the gory details. The next round of arrests followed.
Ashique told the police that they brutalised the body with knives stolen from their homes so that no one could suspect the hands of children in the crime.
Singh said: 'We are astonished by the brutality.'
The boys did manage to divert the arrow of suspicion. 'We thought the murder was committed by seasoned criminals,'said Oliul Islam, the primary school headmaster. Addiction to liquor and narcotics is now common among students, he added.