Chandrababu Naidu was under pressure as protesters were demanding death penalty to accused.
A 59-year-old rickshaw puller, A. Subbaiah, who was accused of raping a nine-year-old girl of his locality in Dachepalli town in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, committed suicide by hanging himself to a tree on Friday evening. He was absconding since Wednesday evening as the public demolished his house and attacked his family members, seeking his arrest.
The rape incident which happened on Wednesday had shaken the entire state as it took a political colour. Both ruling TDP and opposition YSR Congress leaders traded charges alleging that the rapist belonged to the other side.
There was also another dimension to the sexual crime as the victim belonged to the minority community and a large number of people from the community thronged the streets in protest.
Subbaiah, who was abandoned by his two wives since long, was popular among children in his street and he lured the little girl with chocolates on the fateful afternoon and assaulted her sexually. The girl, heavily injured and not in a condition to move, was detected by neighbours and taken to a hospital by her family. She is recovering at the Guntur General Hospital.
Dachepally town erupted in violence from Thursday morning and thousands of people blocked the national and state highways and vandalised public property. The public poured out on the streets in Guntur district and elsewhere in Andhra demanding the arrest of the accused. Hundreds of women as well as school and college students joined the protesters. The irate public had demanded death penalty for Subbaiah and severe punishment to his other family members who tried to shield him. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who only a few days ago had blamed the BJP led Centre for the sexual crimes at Kathua and Unnao, came under severe criticism from the opposition for the delay in arresting the accused.
AP director general of police M. Malakondaiah formed 16 special teams to nab Subbaiah and announced a cash reward for any tip off on his whereabouts.
But, finally, the police found the body of Subbaiah who hanged himself to a tree at Daida village, 10 km from Dachepally.
The police also found that the accused had called up his family members a few hours before and confessed to his crime.
“I am unable to face this humiliation, and there is no point in my living anymore. I want to end my life as I had done an unpardonable crime which shamed my entire family and my son,” Subbaiah told his relatives, as per Malakondaiah, who addressed the media on Saturday in Guntur. The police have recovered Subbaiah’s mobile and the call data for examination.
The angry public relented only after the body of Subbaiah was cremated by his family members Friday night. But fresh controversies erupted as CM Naidu held a media conference along with the father of the rape victim at his office in Amaravati on Friday night. The girl’s father thanked the CM for giving him Rs 5 lakh exgratia and finding the body of the accused.
But women groups and civil rights activists have lashed out at Naidu for indirectly revealing the identity of the rape victim, who is still alive. “Any revealing of a rape survivor who is a minor girl is an offense,” said K. Sajaya, a women’s group activist in Hyderabad, while talking to this newspaper.
Some postings appeared on the social media expressing doubts over Subbaiah’s suicide and said the cops could have eliminated him to satisfy the angry mobs.
They quoted Naidu’s comments—“Hereafter, no rapist of minor girls will be allowed to survive”—to support their suspicion. AP Deputy CM N. China Rajappa, however, refuted the allegations and said that the police have done their job and the accused dug his own grave.
YSR Congress MLA R.K. Roja, who was detained at Dachepally, said that atrocities against women, particularly minor girls, had gone up in Andhra in the last few months.
She alleged that more than 250 sexual assaults have been reported since January but the police registered only 11 cases as the acused in most cases had links with the ruling party.