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Avijit Biswas, Hindustan Times
Bhagalpur, March 23, 2014
A female cook of a middle school in a Banka village was allegedly set on fire Saturday by some students following her "refusal" to serve them extra "daal" (pulse) as per their demand a few days ago. The incident occurred while a Bihar Diwas function was going on at the school located at Kharoudha village in Khesar area of Banka district, some 230 km southeast of the state capital.

The victim, Sheela Devi, 50, has sustained serious burn injuries. She is undergoing treatment at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (JLNMCH) in Bhagalpur. She was first admitted to the Phullidumar Primary Health Centre and then to Banka hospital. After her condition deteriorated, she was subsequently referred to JLNMCH.    

Two students of classes 7 and 8 have been named in the complaint lodged by family members of the victim.

The family members have said in the complaint that while the victim was serving "daal" in the midday meal last Wednesday, the two students asked her to serve more. She told them that since other students were also there, the demand for extra "daal" would be met only if some of it was left after the distribution was complete. 

Angry that their demand was not met instantly, the duo allegedly threatened the victim that they would teach a lesson to her later.

The students set her on fire by dousing her with petrol from behind while she was busy cleaning the school premises, the complaint alleged.

It also said that she cried for help after being set afire by the students, but none of the teachers present in the school helped her. Some people living in the neighbourhood came forward to help her after they heard her cries.

 Banka SP Pushkar Anand said an FIR had been lodged by the police in view of the complaint. "In course of the preliminary investigation, some locals told the police that the cook was not set on fire deliberately. They said  that happened accidentally when some students were trying to create fireballs in air by spitting kerosene from their mouths," he said.

"Since the investigation is in progress at present, the police are yet to arrive at any conclusion regarding what actually happened. The police will be talking to all concerned, including the victim, teachers and students of the school, to ascertain the facts," the SP stressed.

He confirmed two students of the school had been named in the complaint received by the police.