Two girls, aged just six and eight, pretended to be dead so that the man who had raped them and was trying to strangle them would leave.
The horrific incident has come to light in Delhi, where both girls live as neighbours. The police have zeroed in on the accused, identified as one Pankaj Kumar, and arrested him.
The two girls have since been treated at the Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, and have narrated their ordeal to the parents as well as the police.
The incident is believed to have taken place around 7:30 pm on Friday, July 14, when the girls were playing outside their houses.
A senior police officer was quoted by an Indian Express report as saying: "The accused called the girls, gave them a Rs 100 note and asked them to get a packet of Eno from a shop nearby."
He added: "The girls went to the shop but couldn't find the product. The accused then asked them to accompany him to another shop, and said he would also buy them candy."
It seems the sister of one of the girls tried to stop the man from taking them away, but in vain. "She asked him to leave her sister alone, but he slapped her. When she started crying, he gave her Rs 5 and asked her to go home," the mother of one of the girls was quoted as saying in the report.
The mother also said: "He took the two girls to an isolated park near a canal, about 150 metres from their home. At the park, he raped them and beat them up. When they started crying, he he hit them on their faces."
Kumar then allegedly tried to strangle the girls. "He dumped them inside a pit after they stopped struggling, thinking they were dead. One of the girls later told her mother she 'pretended to be dead so the man would leave'," said the police officer.
The girls' parents, meanwhile, informed the police and also started looking for them. "Around 4:45 am on Saturday, the relatives of the girls started looking inside the park. The father of one of the girls noticed some clothes lying around and started screaming. Suddenly, one of the girls rushed towards him and told him about the other girl. The police then took the girls to a hospital," said a police official.
Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital medical superintendent Dr Puneeta Mahajan said of the girls: "The victims were brought in a critical condition. They are now in post-operative care. A team of doctors is monitoring their condition, which is at present stable."
The police then started looking for the accused, whose description was given by an eyewitness. They interviewed 100 people before zeroing in on Kumar.
DCP (Rohini district) Rishi Pal said: "We have arrested Pankaj Kumar, a factory worker, for allegedly raping the girls. He was produced before a Delhi court and sent to 14-day judicial custody."