A 20-year-old Muslim girl Gulnaz Khatoon was allegedly burned to death by a Hindu man and his friends after rejecting a marriage proposal in India's eastern province of Bihar.
Many political leaders and women's organisations in India have joined to demand justice for a Muslim girl who was allegedly burnt alive by a Hindu man in the eastern province of Bihar.
Gulnaz Khatoon, 20, was burned after the accused poured kerosene over her in Rasoolpur village in Vaishali district of Bihar on Oct 30.
The girl's family alleges that the police have not been able to catch the accused identified as Satish Kumar Rai, Chandan, and Vinod Rai.
Khatoon sustained 75 percent burn injuries and later died in Patna Medical College Hospital, the largest hospital in the province, on Sunday. She was engaged and the marriage ceremony was scheduled after four months.
Satish Kumar Rai had been pressuring Gulnaz to marry him. Enraged at her refusal, Satish and his friends killed the girl. Family members say the girl refused to enter into an inter-religious nuptial knot with Rai.
Media reports said Gulnaz was burned when she went out to discard household garbage on the evening of October 30.
According to the video statement of the victim before her death, she was caught by the three accused, all residents of Rasoolpur village and they started molesting her.
When she resisted and threatened to inform her mother about their misconduct, the angry accused poured kerosene on her.
The statement names Satish Rai, who poured kerosene and set her on fire. Soon the villagers gathered after hearing her screams.
Vaishali District Superintendent of Police (SP) Gaurav Mangla said that the accused persons were on the run and three police teams have been formed to arrest them.
"Investigations in the case were in progress and the accused persons would be arrested very soon," said Mangla.
The head of the local police station has been suspended for negligence in the case.
Alleged killers on the run
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Khatoon’s younger sister Gulshan Parveen said the killers escaped from the scene as soon as villagers gathered after hearing screams.
"The accused persons had been stalking and sexually harassing my sister for the last three-four months and pressurising her to marry Satish Rai. They killed her because she refused," she said.
The victim’s father Mukhtar had died in 2017. The family of five sisters and four brothers survived on the wages of mother Shaimuna Khatoon and brother Istkar Ahmed. They work in provincial capital Patna, where the mother stitches and the son sells clothes.
The victim’s family had complained to the parents of the accused about the harassment. But they allegedly did nothing.
"After her marriage was fixed, Satish Rai started harassing her even more and pressurised her to marry him. However, she told him that she cannot marry him. Enraged over her refusal, he threatened to kill her," said the victim’s brother Istkar.
Videos of Khatoon narrate the story
Several videos of Khatoon have gone viral, where she is pinpointing the accused and narrating the incident in detail.
There was also an appeal on Facebook seeking help in treating the victim.
After Khatoon’s death on Sunday, her family staged a demonstration at a city square to call for punishment for the culprits.
"We want Justice. It has been 17 days but there has hardly been any progress. We complained but it was not considered. We are powerless, we have no one to help us," Shaimuna Khatoon, mother of the victim, told Anadolu Agency.
Many women's organisations have demanded immediate arrest of the accused and compensation of two million rupees ($27,000) and a government job to the victim's family, besides conducting a fair investigation and trial in a fast track court.
Taking to Twitter, the leader of India’s main opposition Congress party Rahul Gandhi attacked the government and attributed it to misrule and false notion of good governance.
Sharing the newspaper report Gandhi wrote, "Whose crime is more dangerous. Those who carried out this inhuman act? Or those who hid it for electoral gains to lay the foundation of his false good governance on this misrule?"
Bihar recently saw the completion of an election exercise for the provincial assembly in which an alliance of Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata dal United (JDU) emerged the winner.