Protests continue in Himachal over gang rape, murder of girl

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Shimla, July 18 (IANS) Massive protests continued in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday over the gang rape and murder of a schoolgirl in Shimla district. The family of the victim suspect that the ‘real culprits’, who belong to high-profile families, have gotten away ‘scot-free’.

Last week, the state government agreed to recommend a CBI probe into the case.

“Earlier we were told that the accused belonged to high-profile families and they were on the run,” the victim’s eldest sister told reporters in Kotkhai town.

Suddenly police arrested six people and four of them were labourers — two belonging to Uttarakhand and two from Nepal, she said.

“We are demanding justice for our sister. Our protests will continue till the real culprits are apprehended,” she added.

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Police say the 16-year-old girl was offered a lift in a vehicle by the accused on July 4 when she was returning home from school. On the way, the accused raped and murdered her in a nearby forest. Her body was found two days later, police said.

The arrested persons are prime accused Rajinder Singh, who offered her the lift, Ashish Chauhan, Subhash Bisht, Deepak Kumar, Surat Singh and Lokjan.

The police said that the prime accused had developed a familiarity with the victim, named Gudia or a child, as he offered her lifts twice earlier.

The victim’s father questioned the delay in handing over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“We were told that the case has been handed over to the CBI. But no CBI official has so far started investigation in the case,” he said.

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He also expressed apprehensions over the involvement of the arrested Nepalese in the case.

“The Nepalese normally disappear after committing crime. Why they preferred to stay (at the crime spot) for days together. It seems police are shielding the main accused and they have arrested others to cover-up the case,” he added.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people belonging to 25 panchayats gathered at Kotkhai, 54 km from the state capital, and staged a protest, demanding justice for the victim. Similar protests were also held in the state capital, which saw a large attendance of college students.

Sensing the growing public outrage, the state government on July 14 agreed to recommend a CBI probe into the case.

“Keeping in view the sensitivity in the gang rape and murder case and to remove all doubts, if any, the government has decided to refer the matter to the CBI,” an official statement quoted Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh as saying.

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