Fed up of being sexually harassed by four youth from the Jat community, a 16-year-old Dalit girl from a village in Sangrur town of Punjab set herself ablaze on Saturday and succumbed to 70% burns at Chandigarh’s Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research on Tuesday morning.
The daughter of a brick-kiln worker put up with the harassment for 20 days at Kal Banjara village of this district before taking the extreme step on Saturday. Police registered the case only on Monday as they were reportedly busy with security arrangements for chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s visit to Sangrur on Sunday.
The girl named four youth from the Jat community – three from her village and the fourth from neighbouring Khadewal – for stalking her and making lewd gestures and comments for the past 20 days. The youth had been telling her to accept a mobile phone to take their calls.
All four are absconding and efforts are on to arrest them.
A few days ago, one of them, Mani, slapped her in public when she objected to his indecent behaviour. “I was shocked. I feared that if my parents came to know about the harassment, they would pull me out of school. I thought it better to burn myself to death,” she said told a judicial magistrate from the hospital bed.
Wanted to become doctor
“I dreamt of becoming a doctor. It wasn’t my dream alone but also that of my brother. I’ve had to kill my dream and take my life. I couldn’t bear the humiliation. They crossed all limits,” said the girl.
The youth would follow her for the 10 km between her village and the Government Senior Secondary School for Girls at Lehragaga. “Mani, Swaran and the others would pass obscene comments and make vulgar gestures on the road and even at the bus stop. They did things I can’t even share with you,” she said.
Family in shock
The girl’s family was in shock. Her unemployed brother Jasgir Singh said she had not shared anything about being harassed. “She must have been in severe pain and agony. I begged with the police to record her statement on Saturday but they said they were on VIP duty,” he said.
At Lehragaga, police registered a case under Sections 509 (obscene gestures and comments at a woman), 354 (criminal force to outrage woman’s modesty), 305 (abetment to suicide/suicide attempt by minor), 306 (abetment to suicide/suicide attempt), and 511 (punishment for offences punishable with life imprisonment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC); and Section 4 (sexual assault punishable with not less than seven years of imprisonment) of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Sangrur SP (detective) Paramjit Singh Goraya said in burns cases, rules stipulate that the first-information report (FIR) be registered only after the victim’s statement is recorded by a judicial magistrate. “The PGIMER doctors cleared her for this only on Monday,” he said.