Indian baby who was 'buried alive'

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Media caption,

Sanjoy Majumder met the man who reported Radhika's father and uncle to police

The case of a baby girl who was allegedly buried alive in the state of Uttar Pradesh has shocked many Indians, as the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder reports.

Inside a filthy paediatric ward at a government hospital in Meerut, a short drive from Delhi, two-month old Radhika lies quietly on a bed.

Incredibly frail and weak, she is connected to an intravenous drip and her stomach is distended.

"She's suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration," says the doctor attending to her.

But she is incredibly lucky.

Her father and uncle allegedly tried to bury her alive, apparently as a sacrifice to protect the health of their other children on the advice of a spiritual guru.

"We have arrested both men," says Bimal Yadav, the police chief in Pilkhua town where the incident allegedly took place.

"They will face charges of attempted murder."

But Radhika's mother Bharati, who is with her daughter in the hospital, denies the accusation.

"It's an absolute lie," she says, tears streaming down her face.

"Tell me which mother would want to kill her own child."

'Half-dug grave'

But in the main graveyard at Pilkhua, I hear a different version.

"There, you can still see the signs," Sriram Kore, the graveyard caretaker, says as he points to a half-dug grave.

Image caption,
The graveyard caretaker claims he surprised Radhika's father and uncle digging this grave

He describes how he chanced upon the two men, as they were digging the grave, ritual offerings placed right next to it.

"They had a little bundle with them - a dead girl they said they wanted to bury.

"But I could see she was alive. So I called the police immediately."

What is even more shocking is that this is not an isolated case.

"There were three similar stories in the past month alone," says Mohammad Naseem, a local journalist.

"I've covered dozens of other cases just like this one.

"In almost all the cases it's due to poverty and illiteracy because of which people rely on superstition."

It's easy to see why. Pilkhua is located just a 100km (62 miles) from the Indian capital Delhi - off the main highway heading east.

Image caption,
Pilkhua is not far from India's centres of prosperity but many still struggle with poverty

Around us there are signs of India's development - high-rise apartment blocks, wide roads.

But inside the town there are narrow, filthy lanes, reeking of sewage.

Radhika's family lives in one corner of Pilkhua - in a tiny home which they share with another family.

Their neighbours are furious with them.

"They've ruined our reputation," mutters one young man. "That's why people like you are here."

It does not hide the fact that here, just a couple of hours drive from the capital of one of the world's fastest growing economies, superstition and prejudice prevails - especially among those who are desperately poor.