More than 25 sex-related crimes against women from April to July have left people in and around the Taj city shocked, with civil society accusing the political class and lawkeepers of indifference.
"Girls are brutally raped and then, to hide their identity, are either murdered or mutilated. Of late, there have been so many incidents of girls being thrown before running trains. Why are the law enforcing agencies not waking up to these new challenges?" asks human rights activist Naresh Paras.
Police records show that from April till date, there has been a rape every fourth day involving a minor. Most girls who disappeared from their homes are yet to return.
"It's a combination of factors. With increased freedom and mobility come a set of problems as predators are on the prowl everywhere," says Paras, who has sent a petition demanding stern action to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.
A youth was beaten up by a mob in Etmauddaula area April 4 for allegedly raping a girl. A girl was gangraped in Malpura area and kept hostage for a fortnight till April 15. Just three days later, April 18, a minor girl who had gone to a temple in Namnair area, was abducted, raped and thrown on the rail track, say police.
In Khandauli area, 18 km from here, a four-year-girl was lifted, raped and her body was thrown into the village well April 22. In Taj Ganj, a neighbour raped a six-year-old girl April 30.
A four-year-old was molested in Jaitpur near here June 10. In the Nunihai industrial area, a house owner tried to molest his tenant's 10-year-old daughter June 12, say police.
But police blame it on sociological factors in this city of 16 lakh. Agra district has a population of 40 lakh.
Deputy Inspector General Aseem Arun told IANS: "The pattern is indeed shocking. We have arrested suspects and are investigating the cases. However, the spurt is directly linked with exposure to pornography through CDs, mobile phones and other means."
After watching pornographic material, these desperate elements start looking for easy targets, he said.
"An 11-year-old boy was found involved in a rape case. Now this is obviously a social problem and needs a different kind of treatment," he said.
A policeman too is an accused in one of the cases.
Another incident came to light July 12 when a sub-inspector posted at Mainpuri, 100 km from here, was accused of confining and raping a 16-year-old girl for two months. An inquiry was ordered and the girl was sent to her parents.
On July 13, a six-year-old girl from Gadhi Bhadauria area was picked up, raped and hit on the head with a stone. She somehow survived to tell the story of her tragedy.
Agra police are yet to identify the mutilated bodies of three young girls recovered from railway tracks between July 15 to 20, though the post-mortem reports say the girls were alive when thrown before the running trains.
Is Agra safe for young girls? That is the question being asked, as more and more girls from the rural hinterland are moving out for studies or jobs.
"In recent years there has been high migration from smaller towns and villages on the periphery. These impoverished people live in slums and underdeveloped areas without facilities and the girls and women get exposed to all sorts of crimes," explains social activist Shravan Kumar Singh.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at email@example.com)