A tyre set on fire by a mob protesting the minor’s murder at Kantatoli Chowk, Ranchi, on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
An eight-year-old girl was found dead at a graveyard close to Birsa Bus Stand in the heart of Ranchi on Thursday, her tattered clothes suggesting that she might have been raped before being murdered.
The girl, later identified as the only daughter of a rag-picker residing in Bhuiyan Toli near the graveyard in Lower Bazar police station area, had been missing since Wednesday evening.
The graveyard’s caretaker was the first to spot the body around 6.30am on Thursday. He raised an alarm, causing local residents to rush to the spot. Some of them identified the girl from the red frock she was wearing.
“She was last seen playing in the locality around 8pm yesterday (Wednesday). We really don’t know how she landed up in the graveyard,” a neighbour said.
Police have filed an FIR against unidentified men and formed a four-member team, comprising officers from Chutia, Lower Bazar, Namkum and Sadar thanas, to track down the culprit.
“The body has been sent for post-mortem. We can provide details on the nature of assault only after getting the autopsy report,” superintendent of police Anup Birthare said.
Ajay Munda, a resident who saw the body, said a piece of half-eaten bread was lying at the spot, which indicated that the girl may have been eating before she was attacked.
The murder, coupled with the underlying suspicion of rape, sparked tension in Bhuiyan Toli with angry residents pointing finger at criminals who use the graveyard for gambling and consuming liquor at night. A 100-strong mob hit the streets around 10.30am, demanding that the police arrest these men. They burnt tyres and put up bamboo sticks to block Kantatoli Chowk, disrupting traffic on Ranchi-Tata and Ranchi-Ramgarh routes.
Some protesters smashed windscreens of two buses and broke lights of autos. “The graveyard has become a den of gamblers and drunkards. Police should arrest the hoodlums,” a protester cried.
The blockade was lifted around noon after police assured the crowd that they were taking steps to arrest the killer.