An angry mother of a seven-year-old boy killed in a Delhi slum after he fought off a rape attack has spoken of her shock that more children than ever before are being raped in the city, asking: ‘how will our children be safe?’.

Puja Devi, 25, a housemaid, from Harkesh Nagar slum, in Delhi, northern India, was told her son Purshotam Kumar was killed after he resisted a sex attack. But accused Sandeep Singh, 21, didn’t stop there, he gauged out his eyes, cut out his tongue and slashed his body before dumping him in a garbage area.

Puja is devastated that vulnerable families and innocent children in poor areas of India’s capital are left open to child sex attackers.

Puja Devi, 25, holding a photograph of her son Purshotam Kumar, seven, who was abducted from outside their home. © Tanzeel Ur Rehman / Cover Asia Press

‘When will our children be safe?’ she cried. ‘I want him hanged. He’s taken my boy. I don’t want him to do this to another boy, to any other child. There is not point him staying alive, he must be hanged. Children will only be safe when the police catch men like him. The police need to do their job.’

Little Purshotam, affectionately called Chahat by his mother because she didn’t like his real name after she felt forced to name him by her in-laws, was playing outside his home on April 2 when he was kidnapped.

Puja was in their one room ground floor flat, measuring 5ft by 8ft, that includes a single bed, a single gas cooker and shelves filled with their belongings, preparing dinner.

‘I kept shouting him,’ she said. ‘Checking he was ok and he kept saying ‘I’m just here mamma’ but then all of a sudden he was gone. I called him but no reply. I stepped outside but I couldn’t see him. I called his name, searched for him. And them some neighbours said he’d gone with him.’

An album picture of victim Purshotam Kumar, 7, with his mother Puja Devi, 25, and his father Rakesh Kumar, 27. © Cover Asia Press

Puja was aware of the accused Sandeep Singh, 21, who was an alcoholic and drug addict. He lived just opposite their home.

Puja quickly called her husband, Rakesh Kumar, 27, who was working as a labourer at the time, and earns on average Rs 5,000 (£55) a month. He rushed home and together they went to the police station.

Puja added: ‘We went to the police but they did nothing. They said to me: ‘You had him so you find him’. We trawled the streets looking for him but nothing.

‘That night I think I knew my son was gone. My mother kept saying he’ll be alright but I was like no, he’s gone. That night I had a dream he was begging his father to help him.’

That night I think I knew my son was gone

The next day Puja and Rakesh returned to Okhla Police Station and officers began a search. On April 4, the police found Sandeep Singh at a family member’s house in Noida. And he quickly confessed to the crime.

Inspector Anand Yadav, from Okhla Police Station, said the accused confessed and directed the officers to the body.

On the morning of April 5, the police called Rakesh and said they’d found their boy just a two-minute walk from the family home, surrounded by garbage.

Puja rushed to the scene not knowing if her son was alive or dead.

Mother Puja Devi, 25, visits the spot where her seven-year-old son’s body was dumped. © Tanzeel Ur Rehman / Cover Asia Press

‘The police didn’t say they’d found his body, they just said we found your son,’ she explained. ‘I rushed there with a glimmer of hope but when I arrived and saw his feet sticking out from under a blanket I knew, and I just collapsed.’

Puja was quickly escorted away from the scene of the crime but Rakesh’s brother Gopal, 18, said his nephew was unrecognizable.

‘He had slash marks all over his body,’ Gopal said. ‘His face wasn’t even recognizable but we could see enough to know it was our Purshotam. His body had been mutilated. It was gruesome.’

He had slash marks all over his body

The body was immediately taken for a postmortem and that evening the family cremated him in a traditional Hindu burial.

Puja said: ‘We had no fight with anyone. Why would he do this to my son, my family? We are left broken. I don’t know what to do with myself now. His little sister keeps asking for her brother, ‘when will bhai (brother) be back?’, I tell her he’s died, but she refuses to accept it and tells me to get him.

‘I haven’t gone back to work yet, I’m just numb. I can’t do anything with myself. I keep going over that day and wondering if I could have done anything differently. I knew there were bad men here, we’re in a city so of course there are bad men. I used to walk him to and from school, never left him alone. But still, this happened to us.’

Family members visit the spot where the body of seven-year-old Purshotam Kumar was dumped. © Tanzeel Ur Rehman / Cover Asia Press

Inspector Anand Yadav, from Okhla Police Station, added: ‘The accused has confessed to kidnapping and killing the boy. He confessed straight away. He said he lured the boy away with chocolate. He said he tried to sodomise the boy but when he started screaming he strangled him. The body was found decomposed ad the eyes were putrefied.

‘The accused is now in police custody. He was a known drink and drug addict and his family had disowned him.’

Sandeep Singh has been arrested under section 363 (Punishment for kidnapping), 302 (Punishment for murder) of the IPC code and section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) (Punishment for aggravated sexual assault).

Puja said she is tired of the many sex attacks and murders of children in India.

‘When will it end? When will the police do something?’ she said. ‘Our children cannot play on the streets safely. We are surrounded by bad men who want to harm our children, whether they are girls or boys, they are not safe. My boy was a kind and loving boy, always helping me fetch water and if I was ill he’d massage my feet.

‘We live in a troubled city. We came here from Bihar for work opportunities, for better schooling for our children, for a better future but we have been left devastated. Our dreams have been shattered. When will the next family be shattered to pieces?’

© Tanzeel Ur Rehman / Cover Asia Press

The month of April has seen a number of child sex attacks and murders in India. The news of the eight-year-old girl from Kathua, in Jammu and Kashmir, who was kidnapped, drugged and gang raped in a Hindu temple over seven days in January, hit the headlines after details of the case were released. It has caused outrage amongst the people of India, and individuals have taken to the streets of cities all over he country to protest, just like they did after the 2012 Delhi gang rape.