Protesters gather at Indian crematorium where girl, 9, raped and murdered

By Alasdair Pal and Anushree Fadnavis 

  NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Protesters gathered in India's capital on Thursday outside a crematorium where a nine-year-old girl was allegedly raped and murdered, the latest in a series of brutal sexual crimes against women in India that have drawn international condemnation. 

  Police allege that the girl was killed after she went to fetch water on Sunday from the crematorium near her house in New Delhi's Cantonment area. 

  Her family said that when the girl did not return, they went looking for her, claiming they saw some of the alleged perpetrators who worked at the crematorium incinerating her body against the family's wishes. 

  The incident drew domestic and international outrage, with the safety of women and girls in India a key political issue since the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi. 

  On Thursday, around a hundred people gathered near the site, shouting slogans and continuing several days of protests. 

  "She only went to fetch water and this happened to her," said one of the protesters, 27-year-old Tina Verma. "The people and her family want justice for what they have done." 

  Police say four men have been arrested on charges of rape, murder and criminal intimidation. They were not available for comment and Reuters was not able to determine if they had engaged lawyers. 

  There were more than 32,000 rapes recorded in India in 2019 according to the latest government data - almost four an hour - though experts say the actual figures are likely significantly higher due to the stigma attached to sexual offences. 

  There were more than 100,000 kidnappings of women over the same period, data show, a third of them with the aim of forcing them into marriage. 

  (Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Anushree Fadnavis; Editing by Bernadette Baum) 

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