A temple priest allegedly set a 25-year-old woman on fire in Damoh district in Madhya Pradesh, on Thursday, for allegedly spurning his advances. She succumbed to her burns at the Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College in neighbouring Jabalpur on Friday morning.
The police, however, claim that the case was one of suicide and not murder. This is the fourth incident in the last fortnight when a person has been burnt alive in Damoh.
A mother of two, Vinita Patel, a resident of Piproda Chakka village in Damoh allegedly said in her dying declaration to the police that she had been set on fire by Devika Prasad Tiwari, 26, the local temple priest.
Her husband, a farmer, and other family members have also accused Tiwari of burning her alive. “We have registered a case against Tiwari and the investigation is on,” Damoh Superintendent of Police Dilip Arya told HT.
According to a Supreme Court judgment, the police have to treat a victim’s dying declaration at face value. The police claim is based on “circumstantial evidence”.
“We have reports that suggest Tiwari had hit her with a stick on Thursday afternoon. After that she locked herself in her house. While a panchayat was going on to discuss the row between the two, she doused kerosene on herself and lit a match,” the police superintendent said.
The police also claim that the panchayat members broke into the house when they saw smoke coming out of her kitchen window. Her family then took Vinita, who sustained 70 per cent burns, to the district hospital in Damoh. After initial treatment, doctors referred her to the Jabalpur hospital, which has much better facilities.
Earlier, two women were set on fire in separate incidents on June 26 in two other villages of Damoh.