Woman who immolated self near Supreme Court, dies
Three days after a 27-year-old man succumbed to burn injuries at the RML hospital, a 24-year-old woman, who set herself on fire along with the man outside the Supreme Court on August 16 over alleged harassment related to a rape complaint she filed against an MP, too died at the hospital on Tuesday morning.
The woman, a resident of eastern Uttar Pradesh, was on ventilator support after sustaining 80% burn injuries in the incident. The man had 70% burns on his body.
The police said that on May 1, 2019, the woman filed a rape case against Bahujan Samaj Party MP from Ghosi, Atul Rai, at the Lanka police station in Varanasi. After the MP’s anticipatory bail was rejected by the Supreme Court the same month, he surrendered in a Varanasi court in June 2019. He is currently in jail.
On the afternoon of August 16, the man and woman, both from Uttar Pradesh, held a Facebook Live session from outside gate D of the Supreme Court before pouring kerosene and setting themselves on fire. In the video, the woman had accused at least five senior Uttar Pradesh police officers of harassing her to save the MP in the case she filed against him. In the 10-minute-long video, she said she was also being framed in a false case.
In her complaint to the police, the woman alleged that Rai called her to his house to meet his wife on March 5, 2019, but she claimed he allegedly forced himself on her when she reached there. She also accused the MP of recording the act and allegedly using it to blackmail and threaten her against approaching police.
Last week, after reports of the couple’s self-immolation, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) police had said that Rai was arrested on the woman’s complaint and a charge sheet was also filed against him. They also suspended two policemen, Varanasi Cantt SHO Rakesh Singh and sub-inspector Girija Shankar Yadav, and initiated departmental action against them for deficiencies in another case which the woman had alleged was filed to harass her.
On August 17, the Uttar Pradesh government had formed a two-member team headed by a DG rank officer to probe all the FIRs pertaining to the alleged rape survivor and her male associate.
The state government has also asked the two-member team to investigate allegations levelled by the woman against DG Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment & Promotion Board (UPPRPB), RK Vishwakarma, and additional director general Neera Rawat in the video, and submit a report within two weeks.
A senior Delhi Police officer, who asked not to be named, said, “ We are exploring the legal aspects of the case. The Uttar Pradesh police is already investigating her FIR. They had also gone to the hospital last week but were unable to record her statement. If need be, we will write to Facebook and use the video to file an FIR.”
Police said they are in touch with the woman’s mother. Delhi Police are yet to receive a complaint related to the self-immolation incident outside the country’s apex court.
When contacted, the woman’s mother did not comment on the incident.
The investigation so far has revealed that the two knew each other for the past 7-8 years and were active in politics from their student years.
Locals in the 27-year-old man’s village in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, said that he was a witness in the case against Rai.
According to police, Rai’s brother, Pawan Kumar, had filed a case against the 24-year-old woman in November 2020 at the Cantonment police station in Varanasi, accusing her of forging documents to alter her date of birth, following which a local court in Varanasi had issued a non-bailable warrant against her earlier this month.
Kumar had complained in a 2015 complaint the woman filed against a student leader, she submitted documents in which her date of birth was March 10, 1997, and in the subsequent complaint against his brother in 2019, the woman said her date of birth was June 10, 1997.
When HT contacted him for a response on Tuesday after reports of the woman’s death, he said, “The case is sub judice. It will not be appropriate to comment.”
Earlier this year, the woman had approached the Supreme Court seeking a transfer of the case against Rai from Uttar Pradesh to a Delhi court. The Supreme Court had on March 9 stayed the trial and issued a notice to the jailed MP.