On Thursday, an eight-year-old girl, who was raped over a period of four years by 16 men including her relatives, passed away in Chennai.
The parents of the child, however, said that she died due to prolonged illness.
The police are waiting for the postmortem report to ascertain the exact cause of her death.
The New Indian Express reported that the horrifying incident came to light in July 2019 when the girl's mother filed a police complaint in Villupuram district stating that her two daughters had been raped by several of her relatives since 2017.
A case has been lodged under Section 174 (unnatural death) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Younger Daughter Complained Of Stomach Ache
According to the mother, on Thursday evening, the younger daughter complained about stomach pain and stepped into the toilet at around 9.40 pm once and at 10.10 pm again.
Since she was in the toilet for a long time, her mother, broke in and found her daughter lying unconscious on the floor. She was immediately taken to a private hospital where she was declared dead on arrival.
She was later moved to a Government Hospital for postmortem and Chennai city police proceeded to register a case under IPC Section 174 (unnatural death).
Investigators said an autopsy was conducted, adding that they were awaiting the results of further tests.
The older sister, 10, is studying in a private school in the city.
In 2018, the mother had moved to Chennai after re-marriage. Her daughters were in the care of her mother, in a village in Villupuram district, when the sexual assaults took place.
Fearing for their lives, she brought her daughters to Chennai after filing the police complaint.
The step-father of the two girls recalled that she would wake up in the middle of the night crying and was often absent-minded.
She continued mentioning stomach pain in the last eight months. Her frequent visits to the bathroom also drew the attention of her parents.
She had earlier been treated for an infection after the complaint was filed, he, however, expressed regret over never having taken her for a full medical check-up.
"For a very long time, we did not know both our girls were being sexually abused. It was only in July 2019 that we started noticing some behavioural changes in her that provoked me to further probe into the changes," The New Indian Express quoted the step-father as saying.
"In May 2019, the children came to spend their vacation with us. After the vacation, they were hesitant to go back to Villupuram. We slowly started noticing behavioural changes in both the girls, including disturbed sleep, sudden shivering, being frightened and not allowing anybody to touch them. Though we questioned them, the duo remained quiet fearing we might shout at them," the mother said.
In another incident that occurred in July 2019, the elder daughter had fainted in school and a government doctor confirmed that the children had been raped by multiple men.
The doctors had then informed the Childline services, the following inquiries revealed that both her daughters had been repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by her own relatives and their friends for over four years.
On being directed by the Childline, she lodged a complaint at a local police station in Villupuram and 16 people were booked under POCSO Act and remanded in judicial custody.
However, all of them were released on bail in November and December.
"The death of the child does not seem to be connected to them," said the Villuppuram Superintendent of Police, S Jeyakumar.
"However, if the autopsy report shows that the sexual assault was the cause of death, we will take action accordingly," he added.
Interim compensation which is a mandatory provision under Rule 7 of the POCSO Act was not provided to the victims, despite the case being in trial.
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