A 15-year-old Dalit girl who went missing last week in the Indian state of Haryana has been found dead near a canal in Jind district, nearly 100km west of the capital New Delhi.
Doctors say she was gang-raped and her body was mutilated, bringing the memory of the 2012 brutal gang rape of a medical student in New Delhi whose death had triggered nation-wide protests.
"On the afternoon of January 9, she had left for tuition classes, as usual. When I went to pick her up at 8pm (2:30 GMT), the teacher informed me that she had not arrived that day. She was nowhere to be found. Around 10pm that night we filed a police complaint," the father of the victim told Al Jazeera.
If the police had done their job on the day she went missing, my daughter would have been alive, nothing bad would have happened to her
"If the police had done their job on the day she went missing, my daughter would have been alive, nothing bad would have happened to her," the 39-year-old said.
Police are questioning several people in connection with the case.
"We have detained a few people on the basis of doubt. We have not arrested them yet. We are interrogating them now," Abhishek Garg, superintendent of police in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district, told Al Jazeera.
"The probe is still on. We are trying to ascertain the role of the boy who was named in the FIR (first information report). We are trying to find out if there are any accomplices," Garg said.
Dr SK Dattarwal, senior professor at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Rohtak, Haryana, where the post-mortem was carried out, said the girl from Jhansa village in Kurukshetra district was gang-raped.
"She was probably sexually assaulted by more than two persons. They might have tried to thrust some object in her vagina also. Her liver was found ruptured. The injuries were all around the body, on the face, neck, lips and chest. It appears that the victim had struggled a lot to escape from the sexual assault,” Dattarwal told the Indian Express newspaper.
Spike in child rape
The case has brought the spotlight back on to what women's groups call a rape epidemic in the country.
The 2012 gang rape had drawn international attention to violence against women and forced the government to introduce tougher anti-rape laws, including the death penalty.
However, brutal sexual attacks against women and children continue to be reported across the country.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016, incidents of rape of children in India increased by over 82 percent compared with 2015.
In 2016, police in India registered 38,947 rape complaints, an increase of 12.4 percent from the previous year.
The victim, a student in the 10th grade, was cremated on Sunday.
"Her mother can't stop crying; she is still in shock. My soul is shattered at the thought of what my daughter went through. Those animals inserted an iron rod in her vagina and damaged her internal organs. My daughter was like a flower, I can't imagine why they hurt her like this," the father said while sobbing.
"She was very studious; she wanted to become a doctor."