By Sami Ahmad, TwoCircles.net
Bihar: A twenty-year-old girl Gulnaz Khatoon from Rasulpur Habib village in Bihar was allegedly burnt alive for resisting sexual harassment by a man, her family said.
Talking to TwoCircles.net, Saimun Khatoon – the mother of the victim, said her “daughter was burnt alive for refusing sexual advances and forced marriage by a man”.
After her husband died due to illness two years ago, Saimun has been running her household by working as a tailor and would travel every day to Patna – which lies sixty kilometres away, for work. “My daughter Gulnaz would help me with stitching work,” she said.
In Gulnaz, Saimun lost not only her eldest child but a support system too.
As per the family, Gulnaz had studied till matriculation and was engaged to be married next year. “But with her, those dreams are dead too,” Saimun said.
Sitting in their yet to be plastered house in Rasulpur Habib village, which falls under Chandpura police outpost of Vaishali district, Saimun is trying hard to not lose hope of getting justice and have the culprits punished.
How it happened
On October 29, the main accused Satish Kumar Rai, s/o Vinay Kumar Rai, a driver in his mid-20s, who lives just 100 meters away from the victim’s house, made physical advances towards Gulnaz, asking her to marry him.
To protest the objectionable advances of Satish (Yadav by caste), Gulnaz’s mother went to his parents’ house, where as per Saimun, Satish’s parents assured her that they would take care of it and ask him not to repeat any such thing.
Next day, on October 30 around 5:30 pm, she got a frantic call from her second and youngest daughter Gulshan Khatun, a class 8 student, that ‘Baji ko aag laga diya hai’ (Baji [Gulnaz]) has been set ablaze).
“She was stopped and beaten by Satish Rai asking to marry him. Next day when she came out of her house to throw garbage she was again asked by Satish to get married to him. This time Satish was with one Chandan Rai, his friend. As she refused this they dragged her and set her on fire after pouring kerosene,” Gulshan told TwoCircles.net.
Gulshan alleges that she was threatened to be kidnapped from her school by one Pramod Rai.
When Gulnaz started crying for help local residents came out and put off the fire.
Wounded, Gulnaz was admitted in a private hospital in Hajipur, the district headquarter of Vaishali.
According to the family, the victim was transferred to Patna Medical College and Hospital on November 7 and succumbed to her injuries on November 15.
Despite the public outcry, from the day of the incident on October 30 to her death on November 15, no accused was arrested as the police did not get an arrest warrant.
It was after public protests that the police started its action. The Vaishali Police could not arrest the main accused Satish Kumar Rai and he surrendered himself in the Sub Divisional Police office at Mahnar, Vaishali on November 18. A Special Investigating Team (SIT) has been constituted for this case.
Talking to TwoCircles.net, locals of Rasalpur Habib alleged that the family of accused in connivance with the local police tried to hush-up the matter. The main accused person’s family tried to suppress the matter by bearing the expenses of treatment but soon backed out stating that the treatment was getting costly.
“They also said that they cannot help if the FIR is not withdrawn,” the locals said.
This case was forwarded to Desri Police station as Chandpura PO falls under it.
On November 2, an FIR no. 308/20 was registered under sections 841/323/307/306 etc.
The first arrest in the case was made on November 17 when police arrested one of the co-accused and only after the case was discussed widely on social media.
Saimun Khatun and locals told TwoCircles.net that whenever they went to the police asking for action against the culprits they were told ‘Abhi election hai’ (It is election time) and that any action will be taken after the election.
The case prompted Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party senior leader, to tweet that “Whose crime is more dangerous – of them who did this inhuman act? Or of them who hushed-up this case for election benefit to keep the foundation of false ‘Sushasan’ (good governance) over this ‘Kushasan’ (bad governance).” In his tweet, Gandhi attached a news report which says how the police sat on the burning case till her death so that the atmosphere does not go out of hand during the election time.
Rasulpur Habib village has a mixed population of mostly Hindus, while Muslims are in minority.
As per locals, the neighbours of the main accused are trying to protect him alleging that the victim (Gulnaz) set herself on fire.
One local resident told TwoCircles.net that the police gave enough time to the accused persons to move for bail (which they could not get) and an arrest warrant was taken only after the victim died on November 15.
Saimun alleges that for 17 days the police took no action.
The allegation of inaction by local police is established by the fact that the Superintendent of Police, Vaishali had to suspend the Chandpura Police Outpost in-charge Vishnu Dev Dubey.
Though there is deputation of a few police personnel in front of the victim’s house now, the initial action is still a matter of grave irresponsibility. When this reporter asked one of the deputed policemen about this, he said he was just following the instructions.
It is alleged that the victim’s family was getting threats to withdraw the case and only after this police was posted at the victim’s house.
The FIR application has signatures in Hindi of both Gulnaz and her mother dated 30-10-2020 but that was registered on 02-11-2020.
SP, Vaishali, Maneesh has a reason for this delay. He says that since the victim’s family had rushed to a private hospital without informing the police, the matter came to light late and hence the delay.
In a WhatsApp chat with this reporter, the Vaishali SP Maneesh says that, “There was no pushing up/hushing up…Police worked hard.” On the question of the arrest warrant, his answer is, “Police got the warrant on 15, and had prayed for it even earlier.”
Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), an NGO has come forward to provide legal support to the aggrieved family.
“APCR would also try to get financial support from the government for the family,” Shazad Rasheed of APCR said.