The 35-year-old victim of love jihad, who had set herself on fire on the Vidhan Sabha Marg in Lucknow’s Hazratganj area two days ago, died in a hospital in the night of 14 October. Uttar Pradesh Police, informing the press about the mishap, arrested the state president of the UP Congress’s Dalit cell, Alok Prasad Pasi. The cops suspect that he incited the woman to take the extreme step. Meanwhile, the Muslim husband of the woman is still at large, working reportedly in the Middle East.
The unfortunate turn of events comes in the backdrop of Hindu community’s sense of hurt as a commercial by jewellery brand Tanishq chose to ignore the social scourge of love jihad to rather promote marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men. Across north India, hundreds of Hindu women have been tortured, maimed and killed for not falling in line with Islamic belief systems following such marriages.
The woman who succumbed to her burn injuries night was a Hindu divorcee who married a Muslim man. She alleges that the torture that her husband and parents-in-law meted out to her soon after their wedding is now unbearable for her.
Once married to Akhilesh Tiwari of Maharajganj in Lucknow, the woman had then divorced him and married Asif who soon moved to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Asif’s relations allegedly started harassing and torturing her.
Lucknow Police beats around the bush
Lucknow DCP (Central) Somen Barma said an FIR for abetment to suicide was registered against Alok Prasad — son of former Rajasthan Governor Sukhdev Prasad — at Hazratganj police station.
At Civil Hospital in Lucknow on Tuesday, the woman had identified herself as a resident of Maharajganj. She told the cops that she was forced to take the extreme step due to harassment by her Muslim parents-in-law. Police, however, claimed that her dying declaration could not be recorded as she had been unconscious.
The police have no clue about the whereabouts of the victim’s husband, Asif.
Civil Hospital director Dr Madhu Saxena said the woman, who had suffered nearly 90% burns, succumbed tonight. DCP Barma said two police teams from Maharajganj had reached Lucknow and a probe was on. Asked if the woman’s in-laws would also be named in the FIR later, he said, “Their [alleged] role will be part of the investigation”.
UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu alleged that the BJP government in the state was targeting the Opposition and that Pasi was “held without evidence”. “The Congress party will keep fighting. Regardless of how much oppression we face or how many false cases are filed against our workers, we will not bow down,” said Lallu. He said Alok Prasad was made chairman of the UP Dalit Congress around six months ago and had been the party’s Maharajganj district chief three times in the past.
Police said that on Tuesday, the woman reached Hazratganj in an e-rickshaw and set herself ablaze using kerosene that she had brought. A police constable present nearby rushed to her rescue and doused the flames with the help of a sub-inspector, but she had suffered serious burns by then. She was taken to Civil Hospital, police said.
In hospital, the woman claimed that in 2014, she had married one Akhilesh Tiwari from Maharajganj and after they separated, she married a man she identified only as Asif after converting to Islam, police said. “After two-three years, Asif left for the UAE to work there and her in-laws allegedly refused to let her live with them,” said a police officer.
Maharajganj Superintendent of Police Pradeep Gupta said, “We suspect that Alok Prasad is involved in the issue. For the past several days, he was frequently seen with the woman and he may have had a role in inciting her to take the extreme step. We will check his call detail records.”
Meanwhile, protesting against Alok Prasad’s arrest, several INC workers met Lucknow Police Commissioner Sujeet Pandey on Wednesday and also registered their protest outside Hazratganj police station, where the accused is being questioned.
The UP Congress tweeted on 14 October, “Another step in the direction of oppression of Dalits. Without any warrant, Uttar Pradesh Police arrested UP Dalit Congress president Alok Prasad Pasi. Every day there is torture against Dalits and women, and Alok Prasad was raising his voice against that.”
INC spokesperson Anshu Awasthi said Alok Prasad’s father Sukhdev Prasad, who was former Rajasthan Governor and a Union deputy minister in the Indira Gandhi government. Sukhdev Prasad was also a three-time member of the Rajya Sabha, representing Uttar Pradesh.