Caste

Couple Set on Fire for Inter-Caste Marriage in Maharashtra, Woman Dies

Rukmini, who was two months pregnant, succumbed to her injuries, while her husband Mangesh is fighting for his life. Though her father is still at large, the police have arrested two of Rukmini's uncles.

Pune: In a shocking incident of violence over an inter-caste marriage, a father set his daughter and her husband on fire in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.

The daughter, 19-year-old Rukmini Ransing, succumbed to her injuries soon after. Her 23-year-old husband Mangesh Ransing is in a critical condition. Rukmini was two months pregnant.

The police have arrested two of Rukmini’s uncles – Surendra Bharatiya and Ghanshyam Saroj – for allegedly conspiring and aiding the crime, while her father Rama is at large.

The couple got married six months ago against the wishes of the woman’s parents and were living in Nighoj village in Parner Taluka of Ahmednagar district – 60 kilometres from Pune. Rukmini’s parents too live in the same village. 

Mangesh belongs to Lohar community, classified as a nomadic tribe in the state. Rukmini, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, belonged to a Scheduled Caste called Pashi. 

Mangesh worked as a supervisor at a construction site in the village and Rukmini, who had studied till class nine, was a homemaker. Rukmini’s family are daily wage labourers who work at construction sites. 

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Mangesh suffered severe burn injuries on his face and other parts of the body and is battling for his life at Pune’s Sassoon General Hospital. His family told The Wire that Mangesh had complained to the police about the threats that he and his wife received from Rukmini’s family. His family claims the police failed to take timely action.

Mahesh Ransing, 26, Mangesh’s elder brother, who also works as a supervisor at a construction site, narrated how the couple got married against the wishes of the woman’s parents.

He said, “Six months ago, around Diwali, Mangesh and Rukmini married at Alandi in the presence of our family. My parents, all of Mahesh’s siblings and Rukmini’s mother were present. Her father did not turn up as he was opposed to the marriage. Her other relatives also did not show up.”

Mahesh added that Rukmini’s mother would intermittently check on her daughter, even when others in her family were opposed to the marriage.

According to Mahesh, Mangesh feared that Rukmini’s father Rama would harm him and Rukmini. “In February, he approached the Nighoj police and asked that a formal complaint be filed against Rukmini’s father. The police, however, did not take my brother seriously,” Mahesh said.

Narrating the incident, Mahesh told The Wire that Rukmini, who had been to her parents’ house only twice after the marriage, was taken home by her mother on April 30.

“In the evening, Rukmini called my brother and asked him to take her back home. Mangesh feared for his life, so once again, he approached Nighoj police and demanded they intervene. Instead, he was told to sort his family matter on his own,” he said.

Priya, his sister, added, “The moment Mangesh visited Rukmini’s maternal house on May 1, her father and two uncles overpowered him and beat him up brutally. They locked the couple in a room, poured petrol on them and set them ablaze. They were left there to die.”

Neighbours, Priya says, came to their rescue on seeing the house in flames. “Mangesh was seriously injured, but he picked up his wife and walked towards the road, searching for a vehicle to take her to the hospital,” the sister said. When Rukmini’s uncles saw that Mangesh was alive, they attacked the couple with stones, Priya stated.

“On May 1, they were first taken to Ahmednagar Civil Hospital, where doctors told us to take them to Sassoon in Pune as their condition was critical. Because that day was a holiday, we could not get an ambulance. On the next day, we got them to Sassoon. Rukmini died on May 5,” Priya said.

Priya says she did not expect Rukmini’s family was capable of such violence. “We did not think that parents can harm their own children. Rukmini was a caring and good-natured girl. We would often talk and meet in the village.”

Mangesh’s sister alleged that Rukmini’s father had either planned a second marriage somewhere in Uttar Pradesh or had sold her off to someone. “He had even booked train tickets and wanted to take her there. Her father had taken Rs 1 lakh from somebody and wanted to give her away. Rukmini was asking my brother to arrange Rs 1 lakh to free her,” Priya claimed.

Mangesh’s parents are old and depend on their children. Priya said Rukmini’s family did not turn up to claim her body. “We have done all the paperwork at the hospital. Mangesh does not know that Rukmini has succumbed. It might shock him. We are praying he recovers soon.”

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Mangesh’s siblings have demanded strict punishment and want action to be taken against the policemen who did not take his complaint seriously even after repeated pleas.

One of his relatives told The Wire that the police continued to speak to Mangesh arrogantly even when they saw him in a critical condition at the hospital. “Police kept asking him (Mangesh) if he had done something to Rukmini.”

Dr Ajay Taware, superintendent, Sassoon General Hospital, Pune, said, “They were brought to Sassoon on May 2. Rukmini died at 9:30 pm on May 5. Her body is still in the hospital. Mangesh is in a critical condition now.”

An FIR was filed at the Bundgarden police station in Pune and later was transferred to the Parner police station. Vijay Botre, the investigating officer in the case, said, “We first applied Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code for attempt to murder and Section 34 (committing crime with a common intention). Now, with Rukmini’s death, we will be add a murder charge to the FIR.”

On allegations made by Mangesh’s family’s that the police did not act, Botre said the complaint would be looked into.