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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Chhattisgarh tribal woman’s death: Family claims murder, police say suicide

Family members claim that she had been getting threats and had approached police multiple times but was turned away.

Written by Gargi Verma |
July 9, 2021 9:36:43 am

Family members of a 65-year-old tribal woman, who died of burn injuries on June 19 five days after she was allegedly set on fire in a Chhattisgarh village on suspicion of practising witchcraft, have claimed that she had been getting threats and had approached police multiple times but was turned away.

Although the family members of Savana Dhruv, who lived alone in her parents’ home in Ghatoli village of Mungeli district, claim she was set on fire by distant relatives and a neighbour, the police have termed it a suicide case and have filed an FIR relating to abetment to suicide.

Denying suicide, Savana’s sister Nirmala Netam said they are yet to get a copy of the FIR.

According to her, Savana had approached the police several times in the past over the alleged threats and harassment she faced. The last time was on June 6, when she tried to register a complaint at Chilphi police post, the closest to her village, but was allegedly turned away.

According to Nirmala, next day Savana’s daughter Yashoda went to the police outpost once again. “Yashoda went to Chilphi post on June 7 and requested them to take her complaint against our relatives and a neighbour. When the thana in-charge refused, I spoke to him over the phone and he said he would visit the village the next day,” said Nirmala, a 45-year-old government schoolteacher.

No police personnel turned up in the village, she alleged.

On June 14, after trying to get a complaint submitted in the Lormi Police Station, Yashoda and Nirmala decided to move Savana away from the village. But in the afternoon, she got a call. “I got a call from Yashoda’s son that the people had set Savana on fire. I immediately called 108 ambulance and Yashoda recorded her screaming mother’s statement as they waited for the ambulance,” Nirmala said.

“After my sister’s death, an FIR was registered but the police put their own details. They are not even giving us the FIR but claim Yashoda told them her mother committed suicide. Since then, the accused are pressuring her to not go against the FIR or they would harm her children,” she alleged.

Mungeli SP D R Achala said it was a case of suicide due to “family problems”.

“We registered the FIR on the basis of dying declaration of the woman. Five people have been named and investigation is still going on,” he said.

On the claims of the family that they had gone to the police station to lodge a complaint, the SP said, “The FIR was registered after the woman’s daughter reported it at the police station. The deceased was an old woman who had differences with the family members.”

Nirmala, however, said: “This was no suicide. My cousins who lived nearby and our neighbor had eyes on my parents’ property [where Savana lived after her husband asked her to leave his home]. They abused and harassed my sister for years, calling her a witch and bad omen for being thrown out of her in-laws house.”

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