An epidemic of rapes, especially of minor girls, appears to have broken out across India.
Even as a 5-year-old battles for her life in a Delhi hospital after undergoing an unspeakably horrendous experience of rape, and even as protests rage across the streets of Delhi and other cities and towns in India, there have, in just the past 24 hours, been reports that:
A four-year-old girl was raped by a 14-year-old neighbour in Fatehabad district in Haryana.
A 5-year-old girl was raped in Ghansour town near Seoni in Madhya Pradesh, and is in serious medical condition.
A six-year-old girl was raped in Deeghi village in Pahasu area in Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr district.
A 12-year-old girl was raped by a 25-year-old in Guriani village, near Rewari in Haryana.
A 13-year-old girl was raped in KP Palem village in West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh
In addition to these instances of rapes of minor girls, a 32-year-old NRI woman was raped by her brother in Rohtak, near Delhi.
In each case, the details of the instances of rape are sordid.
In the Fatehabad incident, according to PTI reports, the 14-year-old neighbour, Deepak, allegedly lured the four-year-old girl into his house on Friday evening by offering her candy - and then raped her. The mother of the minor girl, who had been searching for her, evidently caught him in the act. The boy was arrested, and had confessed to the crime, according to police officials, and he had been sent to Borstal jail in Hisar.
The case of alleged rape in Ghansour in Madhya Pradesh is an eerie echo of the one in Delhi. There too, a 5-year-old girl is battling for her life after being allegedly raped on 17 April by a 35-year-old man, Firoz Khan. According to PTI, Khan, too offered blandishments of chocolates and then raped her - and dumped the girl at a farm in the town. Her parents stumbled upon the girl in an unconscious condition the next morning, and rushed her to the Government Medical College in Jabalpur. On Saturday, the young girl was still in serious condition and had to be airlifted to Nagpur in neighboring Maharashtra. The accused Khan has not yet been arrested, prompting enraged residents of Ghansour to observe a bandh on Saturday to protest the police inaction; they also submitted a memorandum to the sub-divisional magistrate demanding his immediate arrest and prosecution.
In the Bulahdshahr incident, the six-year-old girl was allegedly raped by Sunil, a Class XI student. He too lured the young girl to a farm by promising her chocolates and raped her there, PTI reported, quoting local police officials. Sunil had been arrested and confessed to the crime, they said.
In the Rewari incident, a 12-year-old Dalit girl was raped, allegedly by Amit Yadav, 25, in his home in Guriani village. He was produced in court on Saturday and remanded to to judicial custody.
In the incident in Andhra Pradesh, a 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped by K Purnachandra Rao, a 21-year-old man, when she was taking food for her uncle. According to PTI, Rao, who was riding a two-wheeler, knocked down the girl - and then took her to a deserted field and raped her. The girl was taken to a village hospital, but since it did not have a gynaecologist, she was shifted to a Kakinada hospital, the report added.
And in Rohtak, the 32-year-old NRI woman, who had returned recently from Italy, said she had been raped in her house by her own brother - who then fed her some poisonous substance. She isn't clear what happened next, but when she regained consciousness, at around midnight on Friday, she found herself lying on the road, and called her friend. She was then admitted to hospital.
Six incidents, all relating to rapes (and five of them against minors), in a country of a billion-plus people. The usual alibis will be trotted out: the per-capita rape statistics for India are low compared to those for even developed countries. There is huge under-reporting of rape in even developed countries. And that anyone who points to these "random incidents" is a self-flagellating India-basher.
But none of these alibis can hide the bitter truth that India appears to be in the grip of a rape epidemic, the sordid details of which are tumbling out perhaps on account of better reportage and an increased sensitivity to such cases. And in most such cases, the gory details of the rape incidents point to a darkness in the hearts of the perpetrators that ought to cause us grave concern.
As the mother of a 7-year-old girl told Firstpost: "Nothing is safe anymore. It’s no more as if only a teenager is at risk or a person at a certain age is in danger of such an act. Nowadays as soon as a child is born you have to be careful."
With each horrendous episode of rape, India is letting down its minor girls - and feeding them to the wolves that prey on them.