Patna: A 20-year-old woman was molested and burnt alive in broad daylight in Rasalpur Habib village under Desari block of Bihar’s Vaishali district. An accused was arrested after two weeks but the police’s reported slowness in acting has come under question, especially since one of the accused’s families have made open threats to the victim’s.
The victim Sabina* was an intermediate student and was engaged to be married three months later.
In her statement from the hospital, Sabina named three men – Satish Kumar Rai, Vijay Rai and Chandan Kumar. All three lived in the neighbourhood. She said that she had gone out to throw away the trash at around 5 pm on October 30, when the three misbehaving with her.
“When I protested and said that I would tell my mother about their antics, Satish took out a bottle of kerosene from his pocket and poured it on my body. After this, they set fire on me with a match. I started shouting. People around started gathering there, and then all three fled,” she said in her statement.
She was immediately taken to a local private hospital for treatment and was later admitted to Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH), where she died on the night of November 1.
Sabina had filed a written application on October 30 itself. However, personnel of the Desri police station filed an FIR two days later on November 2 under sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 307 (attempt to murder), 354 (b) (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe) and other sections of the Indian Penal Code.
The victim’s family said that the police had remained inactive despite the application having been made on October 30. Several times they pleaded with police to arrest the accused, the family said. Police, meanwhile, said that they would take action if the victim’s family caught the accused and brought them to the police station.
Sabina’s younger sister told The Wire, “We asked the police to take action against the accused, but they told us that we should apprehend the accused and give them to the police.”
The family also said that relatives of the accused had been – in the meantime – visiting the police station frequently and pressuring police to ‘settle’ the case.
After Sabina’s death on Sunday night, her family raised the pitch of their arrest demand. A campaign was carried out on Twitter and rallies were held at various places. Vaishali police have arrested the main accused, Chandan Kumar.
Vaishali superintendent of police Manish told The Wire, “We had been making continuous raids since yesterday. Chandan was arrested during one such raid. Raids are being conducted to arrest the other two accused.”
On the allegation of negligence by police, he said, “We cannot say anything on these charges, but we raided wherever we found clues. Our team is continuously taking action.”
However, preliminary investigation has indeed revealed that police role was suspicious. On the basis of this, an officer-in-charge has been suspended.
“We found that the officer-in-charge of Chandpura Outpost should have been more sensitive in this matter, but he did not show up. We found negligence in his work and took action,” the SP told The Wire.
A special investigation team has been formed under the deputy superintendent of police, which is investigating the case.
Sabina’s father died two years ago. Her mother works as a tailor in Patna. She has two brothers who work.
Her sister told The Wire, “We have been living in Patna for the last two years. When the lockdown occurred, my mother’s work stopped, so we came back to the village. My mother started working a few days ago. She would go to Patna in the morning and return to the village in the night.”
Sabina had wanted to continue her studies after the wedding – an idea her in-laws were enthusiastic about.
Her sister said, “For the two or three months, Satish [one of the three accused] had been harassing Sabina. He tried to force her into marriage with him. Sabina told our mother and our mother complained to the family of the accused.”
She said that since the incident, Satish’s family has been threatening them in no uncertain terms. “The accused’s uncle Pramod Rai has threatened to kidnap me whenever I go out for school or tuition classes,” she said.
Sabina’s family said that amidst all their troubles, a social activist named Kiran Yadav had raised money on their behalf but even she had stopped contacting the family. The Wire also could not contact Kiran Yadav for her response.
*Name changed. The names of the victim and her family members have been withheld to protect their identities.