Jamshedpur, Jan. 7: An 18-year-old succumbed to horrific burn injuries this morning after being set on fire in the wee hours by a man she was involved with at one time but had been avoiding of late after her marriage was fixed elsewhere by her family.
The attack on the Class X student of Rajnagar High School at Baridih village in Seraikela-Kharsawan, about 25km from the steel city, took place around 12.45am, with the family alleging that prime accused Dipu Mahto (24) raped the victim before setting her afire. The girl, who suffered 95 per cent burns, died at the MGM Medical College and Hospital at 7am. Mahto has been arrested.
According to the victim's relatives, the girl and her 15-year-old sister were asleep in different rooms of their house when three inebriated youths arrived around 12.45am. While Mahto entered the room the victim was sleeping in, the two others approached her sister's room, where they tried to force themselves on the younger girl.
However, the younger girl raised an alarm, which alerted her farmer father, who in turn went out of the house and shouted for help from neighbours. Sensing trouble, the two youths fled. Even as the family and the neighbours looked for the two intruders, they noticed another youth running out of the victim's house, and within seconds, the older girl, who was in flames.
On seeing the girl like that, the villagers chased and caught hold of Mahto, a resident of neighbouring Dhatkidih village.
In the meantime, the girl ran for about 100 metres in a desperate attempt to douse the flames. Before collapsing, she allegedly told her family that Mahto had raped her and then set her on fire. The family rushed the girl to MGM Medical College and Hospital, a 45-minute drive away, where she succumbed to her burns this morning.
"Had we known another culprit was already in my elder daughter's room, we could have saved her," said the victim's father, though he could not say how the youths got in considering the main door was bolted from inside.
A villager, who accompanied the victim's family to the hospital, said Mahto had an affair with the victim and used to visit her regularly at night till some time ago, when the girl's family got to know about the affair and fixed the girl's marriage elsewhere. According to the villager, once the marriage was fixed, the girl started avoiding Mahto.
While speaking to reporters, the victim's father reiterated that Mahto raped his daughter before killing her.
Seraikela-Kharsawan superintendent of police Upendra Kumar confirmed that the 18-year-old was set on fire by a youth she had an affair with. "We have arrested one person, prime accused Dipu Mahto, but two of his accomplices are absconding. Raids are being conducted to nab them," said the SP.
He said whether the girl was raped or subjected to an attempted rape would be clear from the post-mortem report, though a case under Sections 302 and 376-511 (attempted rape) had been filed against Mahto and two others.