A day after the incident, on Tuesday, the Nalanda Police arrested one person. The Police Superintendent of Nalanda, Sudhir Kumar Podika, said they have arrested one Ranjeet Chaudhary on the basis of the woman’s statement. Further investigations are on.
Puniya Devi was allegedly set ablaze for resisting sexual assault. The woman is currently battling for life at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH).
Rajeev Ranjan Prasad, PMCH superintendent, said, “She has received 80-90 recent burn injury. Our doctors are trying to save her but in such cases survival chances are very low. She is very critical.”
She was first admitted at Biharsharif district hospital. But later doctors referred her to PMCH considering her critical condition.
In a statement, before leaving for Patna, she said, “My husband Shankar Manjhi works far away in Tamil Nadu and taking advantage of that Ranjeet was trying to harass me for quite some time. He always stalked me and tried to force himself on me. On Monday night he came with two other friends and tried to rape me. When I raised the alarm, one of them stuffed my mouth with a cloth and the other two poured kerosene and set me on fire.”
The woman’s mother accused the Chaudhary family of creating problems for people belonging to the lower castes. “We are Manjhi and they are Chaudhary. Since my son-in-law was away, they forced their entry into my house, tried to rape my daughter and when she resisted, they tried to burn her alive,” the mother said.
Though the police have arrested the alleged accused, the investigations are on as the villagers are giving contradictory statements. As per the villagers, Puniya Devi reportedly indulged into a heated fight with her husband Shankar Manjhi, after which he poured kerosene on herself and lit a fire.
Quoting the villagers’ version, the SP said, ‘Her husband had gone out of home by the time and a neighbour, Ranjit Chaudhary rushed inside hearing her screams and doused the flames by covering her body with a blanket.’
He added that Chaudhary also sustained burned injuries on his hands in the process.
However, the woman gave a statement at the hospital that the neighbour had been making advances at her. And her refusal to comply enraged him, following which he tried to burn her alive, concluded the SP.
The SP mentioned that Puniya Devi has alleged that four other persons assisted Chaudhary in the crime — Dina Manjhi, Sunaina Devi, Ram Dev Manjhi and Guddu Manjhi.
Megha Thadani is an Intern with Shethepeople.tv