A 40-year-old former Delhi University (DU) employee tried to commit suicide through self-immolation outside the Delhi Secretariat on Monday evening. Doctors treating her said she had suffered 90-95 per cent burns and that her chances of survival were extremely slim.
Pavitra Bhardwaj, a resident of northeast Delhi's Maujpur area, had been allegedly forced to quit her job and subjected to repeated instances of sexual harassment by the principal of her college two years ago. On Monday, she doused herself with kerosene and set herself on fire outside gate number six of the Delhi Secretariat around 5:15pm. No suicide note was recovered from her possession.
She did, however, tell the police that she was taking the extreme step "to protest administrative inaction into her complaint".
"A fire tender was rushed to the spot as soon as we were intimated about the incident," said a Delhi Fire Services (DFS) official. "We were able to rush her to Lok Nayak Hospital alive though with 90 per cent burns."
In her agony, Bhardwaj told the police that she had taken the step as no one had been 'listening to her cries for help otherwise'. She told the police that she had been sexually harassed by the principal of DU's BR Ambedkar College two years ago before being forced to resign as a chemistry lab assistant.
"We are investigating the veracity of her statement but action can only follow after her statement is formally recorded but she is currently not fit for it," said Alok Kumar, deputy commissioner of police (central).
"Her chances of survival are less but we are trying our best. She's been put on oxygen and intravenous fluids," said a senior doctor at Lok Nayak Hospital
"She is still talking and has blamed the college principal and the head of her department of harassment," he added.
The BR Ambedkar College administration could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.