Four days after a 27-year-old woman was burnt alive in front of a temple in the heart of Patlasa ka Chhota village in Dungarpur district, allegedly by a mob led by her brother and cousins, police are yet to find any witnesses. Police said even the victim’s mother-in-law, who lodged the complaint, cannot be traced.
Rameshwari Devi alias Ramo, a Rajput, had returned to her village just a day before she was killed, after staying away for eight years. She had fled the village after eloping with a Brahmin neighbour, Prakash Sewak. On March 3, the couple returned to the village with their three-year-old daughter.
The next day, at about 8:30 pm, Ramo was allegedly dragged out of her in-laws’ house by 30-35 people. She was taken to the heart of the village, doused with kerosene, and burnt alive — barely 200 metres from her home. “The men climbed the wall and entered the courtyard where Ramo was sitting with her mother-in-law, Kalawati, and another relative. As the men rushed towards Ramo, she ran and locked herself in the bathroom,” said Gautam Choubisa, SHO of Varda police station. The mob broke open the door.
Days later, the only people out on the streets are the policemen — three guarding the “crime scene”, and four others posted at Sewak’s house, which is now locked. “Apparently, she was earlier married to Madho Singh, also a Rajput, but eloped with Sewak,” said Choubisa.
Ramo’s brother and cousins are among the 13 who have been arrested so far. Her parents, according to the police, were not involved. “Her father is in Ahmedabad, where he works, while the mother, who was unwell, has probably gone to a relative’s house. We are yet to contact her,” said Aspur police station SHO Laxman Dangi.
He said they also haven’t been able to contact Sewak’s mother Kalawati, who lodged the police complaint. “She said she is going to stay with her relatives in Sagwara, but we haven’t been able to contact her,” he said.
Ramo’s house, as well as her relatives’ two houses, are locked. The houses and shops around the temple are locked too. The few villagers who could be seen said they did not see or hear anything that night. They said they only got to know about the incident the next morning.
“I didn’t hear anything. My eyesight is weak. I was told about it only in the morning,” said Kishore Singh, a neighbour. Rekha, another neighbour, said she heard the police siren at night but did not step out.
Shanker Lal, also a neighbour, said he and his family were away on the day of the incident. “We belong to the Nai (Saini) caste, so we never interacted with either family anyway,” he said.
“Prakash Sewak’s father was a social man, but after his son eloped, we stopped talking to him. All the 40-50 Brahmin families of the village were angry with how his son had acted, so we severed ties,” said a woman who did not want to be named.