When they went to bed on Sunday night cuddling up to their mother, Hirdesh, 9, and Neeraj, 7, couldn’t have imagined the tragedy that was to haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Around 10.30 pm the two woke up to loud screams and saw their mother, Anarkali, 35, being dragged by some men. Even before the children came to their senses, their mother was set afire and the men fled the scene at Sabhapur village in Etah, around 250 km from the state capital.
Anarkali was allegedly gang-raped earlier in the day and she had identified the rapists.
“Sunil (one of the accused) and two others beat up my mother and dragged her into the room. They even threatened to hit my head with the brick they had in their hands, if I moved,” Hirdesh said. “I saw them jump off the wall and run away after setting my mother on fire.”
Anarkali was rushed to the district hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.
“In her dying declaration she said she was raped and burnt alive by the accused,” said Laxmi Narayan, senior superintendent of police, Etah.
“We have nothing else to corroborate the charges. However, the medical team has collected vaginal and anal swabs to ascertain if she was raped. The report will be out in two days,” he said.
(names of victim and kin changed)