Residents of Chechar village where Lalmati Verma committed sati on Saturday evening worshipped the spot at which she had immolated herself until the police arrived next morning.
On Monday Lalmati’s three sons, their wives, and only daughter, were all arrested for having abetted the act and remanded to 12 days judicial custody.
“Their mother had clearly announced her intention of jumping into her husband’s funeral pyre, when her husband was still alive but very ill,” said Amit Kumar, superintendent of police of Raipur district under which Chechar falls. “These relatives failed to inform the police, or even other villagers, of her intention, and are thus guilty of abetment.”
“The family members have admitted that Lalmati repeatedly told them she wanted to commit sati when her husband died, in order to be remembered as a faithful wife,” said another top district police official. “But they did nothing about it, and may have even encouraged her.”
“She committed sati of her own free will,” her eldest son Bharat Ram, detained at the police station, told Hindustan Times. “No one forced her or incited her.” He said he had never heard about the stringent law that prohibits sati.
A strong police contingent has been stationed in the village, 145 kms from Raipur, to check any attempt to glorify Lalmati’s sati. But locals revealed they had already worshipped to their heart’s content all of Saturday night before the police arrived, and regarded Lalmati as a goddess.
Though in the presence of the police, local villagers refrained from making public display of their veneration for Lalmati, they displayed neither remorse nor outrage at the event. It was clear that, Lalmati’s family apart, no other village had tried to prevent her sati either.
Village authorities remained defensive and evasive. “I learnt from others about the incident,” said Suresh Kumar Pradhan, village sarpanch. “I had gone to nearby Kasdol town on that day,” said Punaram Chouhan, the local kotwal. “I have nothing to say.”
But others, who did not want to be named, said a large number of villagers gathered at the site of the sati and verses from the Ramayana and other sacred texts were recited all night.