India rape
Sexual harassment is one of the most widespread crimes in India, where a rape is committed every 22 minutes. Getty Images file photo

The naked body of a girl has been found near a railway track in a city in eastern India.

The unnamed girl was allegedly raped and murdered by elders from the city of Dhupguri, West Bengal, as a punishment for trying to stop her father being beaten.

The girl's father was beaten during a salishi sabha (reconciliation meeting). The meeting, which was being held in Dhupguri, had been arranged as the man had failed to pay for a rented tractor.

The unidentified girl interrupted the meeting, begging to spare her father from the punishment.

She was taken away by a person known to her and had been missing since then, police said.

"When the girl tried to stop the villagers from thrashing her father, the elders turned on her," local police officer D Sherpa told news agency Sapa-Dpa.

'Why was she without clothes?'

"They allegedly ordered her to spit on the ground and lick it up… The girl refused and went missing soon after."

India rape protest
Protestors in India have been drawing attention to a widespread culture of rape in the country Reuters

The girl's father, after identifying the body of his daughter, lodged a report at Dhupguri police station against 13 people for "rape, murder and kidnapping".

Indian news media has reported a local councillor and the girl's husband were both present at the meeting.

Villagers who allegedly abused the girl said she committed suicide. However, the girl's uncle dismissed the allegations.

"If she committed suicide, why was she without clothes?" he said to broadcaster NDTV.

Police said that they were awaiting medical reports and that two men had been detained for questioning.

Anti-rape measures

Sexual harassment is one of the most widespread crimes in India, where a rape is committed every 22 minutes.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 25,000 rape cases were reported in 2012, of which 24,470 were committed by a relative or neighbour.

The issue of rape in India was brought to light in 2012, when a young woman died after being gang-raped on a bus in Dehli.

In 2014, a spate of rapes in Uttar Pradesh – including two which saw the victims being hung from trees after being abused – sparked worldwide outrage, with dozens of people urging the Indian government to tighten its laws on rape and to persecute perpetrators who, at present, go largely unpunished.