In a grim reminder of the 2012 rape and murder of a paramedic student in the heart of New Delhi, a Dalit woman from the southern Indian state of Kerala has been subjected to a brutal sexual assault followed by a ghastly death.
The 30-year-old, whose name is being withheld as Indian law prohibits revealing the victim's identity without consent, was studying law at a government college in Ernakulam, Kerala.
The port-mortem report has confirmed she was raped but it is still inconclusive whether the sexual assault was before or after her death. The police are hunting for a male suspect between 25 and 30 years of age. The initial investigation is pointing fingers at one of her family members as well as local labourers who were working in the area.
Speaking to IBTimes UK,Yathish Chandra G H, a senior police officer who is overseeing the investigation, said: "Only today (3 May) we got the information from the neighbours of the house that they saw a person leaving the victim's house after the incident."
The incident occurred on 28 April at about 4-5pm but details have emerged only days later. The victim was first found by her mother, who is thought to be mentally unstable, in the house when the semi-naked dead body was lying around. The mother was not in the house when the incident took place.
The victim's body contained over 30 injuries with indications that her uterus and intestines were pierced by sharp weapons. Chandra said the investigators are probing all possible motives and have narrowed down on suspects. Police have ruled out robbery as a motive.
The woman used to live with her mother in an isolated area and the nearest household is about 50 metres from her house. Her rape-cum-murder has sparked tensions in the area with women's groups calling on law enforcement agencies to catch the perpetrator.
Giri Shankar, a professor at the Government Law College in Ernakulam who once taught the victim, described to IBTimes UKthat the girl was "subdued" and "modest". He said the girl did not have many friends and most of the time used to be alone.
Shankar, who was "absolutely shocked" on first hearing the news, added the girl had not yet completed her law course as she had not cleared some papers.
He said: "She was not that much talkative and had a limited number of people in her circle. She had just one or two friends who have now enrolled as advocates."
The chilling incident has sent shockwaves across poll-bound Kerala. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who faces sharp criticism from the opposition over the slow pace of the investigation, has said the government would take necessary action against the culprits.