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Saturday, September 25, 2021

‘Raped’ by BSP MP, woman who set herself on fire dies; family says was being harassed

Alleging harassment over a rape case she had filed against Ghosi MP Atul Rai, the 24-year-old Ghazipur resident had set herself on fire, along with a friend, on August 16

Written by Jignasa Sinha , Manish Sahu | Lucknow, New Delhi |
Updated: August 25, 2021 12:30:15 pm
Police at the spot where a women and man allegedly set each other on fire in front of the Supreme Court in New Delhi on August 16. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

The 24-year-old woman who had set herself on fire along with a friend outside the Supreme Court last week succumbed to burn injuries on Tuesday. The man, a 27-year-old Delhi University graduate, had died during treatment on Saturday.

The woman, a student in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district, had come to Delhi with her friend on August 16. Before setting themselves on fire the same day, they recorded a Facebook Live video, wherein the woman said she had lodged a rape case against BSP MP Atul Rai, and alleged that senior IPS officers and a judge from Uttar Pradesh were “part of a nexus”.

The woman had sustained 85% burn injuries and the man 65%. A senior official at RML Hospital, where they were admitted, said, “We performed surgeries on them the day they were brought to us, but they had severe burn injuries and treatment was difficult. They suffered organ failure.”

Rai is alleged to have raped the woman in March 2018. In an FIR filed on May 1, 2019, the woman said she came to know Rai while contesting student union elections, and had sought financial help from him.

The woman said Rai called her to his apartment in Varanasi on March 7, 2018, and sexually assaulted her. She alleged that Rai had filmed the assault, and threatened to circulate the video clip on social media.

On June 22, 2019, Rai surrendered before a court and was sent to judicial custody. He remains in jail. He contested, and won, the Ghosi Lok Sabha elections from inside jail. The rape case is pending before a local court in Prayagraj.

“Nine prosecution witnesses have been examined by the court. The statement of the accused is to be recorded in court. After that, the defence will get the statements of their witnesses examined in court,” said Gulab Chandra Agrihari, district government counsel, Prayagraj.

Meanwhile, last November, Rai’s brother, Pawan Kumar, lodged a complaint in Varanasi against the woman for allegedly forging documents. He alleged that in 2015, when the woman produced her high school marksheet before the police while lodging an FIR against a student leader on charges of molestation, her date of birth was shown as March 10, 1997. According to the complaint, when the woman filed the case against Rai in 2019, her marksheet showed her date of birth as June 10, 1997.

A case was lodged against the woman under IPC Section 419 (cheating by personation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 467 (forgery of valuable security, will, etc), 468 (purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) in Varanasi.

On August 2, a local court in Varanasi issued a non-bailable warrant against her after the police told the court she “remained untraceable despite several raids”.

The woman’s parents, who live in UP’s Ballia, said they did not know when she went to Delhi. “She never told us anything about her case. We wanted to help her, but she said she would handle it… The MP and his associates had been harassing her since 2019. They wanted us to withdraw the case, but we didn’t. They also had some videos and threatened us, but my daughter said she would fight,” her father told The Indian Express.

“My daughter never absconded… I don’t know why they issued a non-bailable warrant against her. She was upset and disappointed. I want the government to take strict action against the policemen. My daughter was harassed and tortured. We wish we knew more,” he said.

“She was at home, but the police never came for an inquiry,” alleged her brother. The woman’s family will take the body back to UP for the last rites.

The Delhi Police have initiated a probe, based on the video and the man’s social media profile, and have registered a case under IPC Section 309 (attempted suicide) against unknown persons.

During investigation, police found that the woman had come to Delhi last month as well to protest against senior UP officers who were allegedly helping MP Rai.

“They came to Delhi in July but went back to Prayagraj. Nobody was able to get in touch with her. Her family and friends were also unaware of her location and plans. On August 16, the woman and the man came to Delhi and planned to shoot the video. We are talking to their family members,” said a senior police officer.

The UP government has set up a two-member committee, headed by a DG-level officer, to probe the case.

“It is unfortunate that they died. We are conducting an inquiry and have already suspended two officers in the last week. The report from the DG-level committee and Delhi Police will be submitted soon. We will then take further action in the case,” said Prashant Kumar, ADG (Law and Order) in UP.

Both Delhi and UP Police couldn’t record the victims’ statements.

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