A seven-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree in a village in eastern India after locals suspect she was r*ped, according to police reports.
Angry villagers sought revenge after discovering the body in eastern West Bengal state on Thursday, hunting down and attacking three men they accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering the girl, a police officer said.
“I am at a local hospital for the girl’s post-mortem while those three suspects are also admitted at another hospital with serious injuries,” sub-inspector, Shankar Das, told AFP news agency.
Local media reported that one of the suspects had died from injuries sustained in the attack by villagers, but this could not be confirmed.
The girl had gone missing close to her home in the state’s East Midnapore district on Wednesday evening, sparking a search by family and villagers, police said.
“This morning around 9:30am, we were on our way out and found the girl hanging from a neem tree,” an unnamed villager told NDTV news channel.
Das said he could not confirm whether the girl had in been r*ped, as a post-mortem report has yet to be released.
India is sensitive to cases of sexual violence after the 2012 fatal gang-rape of a student on a moving bus in New Delhi, which led to public outcry and tougher laws to deter rapists. The ugly trend has however not subsided with cases of rape being still recorded often.
The incident in West Bengal comes after two girls, aged 12 and 14, were gang-raped and lynched in late May in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
In the southern city of Bangalore, the alleged rape of a six-year-old girl in a school this month triggered a series of street protests by angry parents.
India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised “zero tolerance” toward crimes against women during his election campaign.
Activists say that violence against women is deeply engrained in some segments of Indian society, while government crime statistics show one rape is reported every 21 minutes in India.