Four men charged with rape and murder of 9-year-old girl in India

People attend a candlelight vigil to protest against the alleged rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in New Delhi, India, August 8, 2021.

New Delhi (CNN)Four men, including a Hindu priest, have been charged with the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in the Indian capital Delhi, police said Saturday, in a case that has once again highlighted widespread sexual violence and caste-based discrimination in the country.

The men, who were arrested on August 2, have been formally charged with rape, murder, and destruction of evidence, among other crimes, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement. They could face the death penalty if found guilty.
The victim belonged to India's Dalit community, the most oppressed in Hinduism's caste-based hierarchy, senior police official Ingit Pratap Singh told CNN. The victim was allegedly gang-raped and killed on August 1 in a southwestern district of the Indian capital, after she had gone to fetch water from a crematorium, he said.
    The crematorium's priest had called the victim's mother and showed her the body of her dead child, Singh said, citing the mother's statement. The priest allegedly told the mother her daughter had been electrocuted, he added.
      Protesters gather in New Delhi on August 3 to condemn the alleged rape and murder of a 9-year-old Dalit girl.
      The priest and three other crematorium employees convinced the mother to cremate the body, claiming it would be a hassle to involve the police, Singh said. The girl's body was cremated, with her parents present, he added.
      But the incident caused uproar in the victim's village, where about 200 villagers gathered that night, demanding justice. Police then arrested the four men accused of the girl's murder, according to Singh.
      Days of protests followed in New Delhi as hundreds of protesters gathered at the victim's village, demanding accountability for the girl's death.