Girl tortured, burnt to death in UP

Sharat Pradhan,
August 1, 2000 10:00 Hrs (IST)

Lucknow: History probably repeated itself when a strikingly similar incident, as Phoolan Devi's physical torture and humiliation two decades ago, was reported from Azamgarh district in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Eighteen - year old Guddan, belonging to a backward caste was not only forcibly taken away from her home to a neighboring village by an armed band of lustful Thakurs, but was also subjected to the worst possible physical humiliation before being burnt alive in broad-daylight on Sunday.

A top home department spokesman confirmed the incident, but on the basis of a report from the local police, maintained that the girl had "committed suicide by setting herself ablaze."

However, local sources alleged "soft-peddling" by the Azamgarh police, who were accused of "trying to give a different turn to the case with the obvious intent of saving the skin of the influential culprits."

According to a social activist, who visited Gorath village under Sidhari police station on the outskirts of Azamgarh town, barely a kilometer away from the official residence of the district police chief, "Guddan was alone in her house, when Shyampari Chauhan of the neighboring village barged in with over a dozen armed muscle-men, who dragged her out and took her to their village."

He said, "according to terrorized eyewitnesses who could not dare to intervene, Chauhan first got the girl's hair chopped and as she struggled and screamed to be let off, he and his toughs tore off her clothes and then paraded her naked in full view of everyone." It was said that Chauhan crossed all limits of barbarism and even ran scissors over her bare breasts.

But the Thakur's sadistic lust was still not satisfied, so he dragged the helpless Guddan back to her village, where he allegedly poured kerosene oil over her badly bruised body and set her ablaze, perhaps to destroy all evidences of the physical torture. Yet the girl managed to dash upto her doorstep where she fell unconscious.

Her father, who had, by then returned home, rushed to the nearest PCO to call up the Sidhari police station. In a belated response, the cops accompanied the father to the Azamgarh District Hospital where she was admitted. However with more than 80 percent burns, she died shortly thereafter.

Chauhan's family was using all its money power and connections to give a different color to the whole case. And that became visible in the observation of the local superintendent of police who described the girl as "characterless" and "having illicit relationship with Chauhan." He told India Abroad News Service over telephone, "The girl was at Chauhan's beck and call, but on Sunday when he came to call her over to his place, there was some altercation between the two and the girl threatened to get him beaten up; this naturally provoked the Thakur, who returned after a while with his men and took Guddan away to his village in the neighborhood."

Even as the SP confirmed all the physical torture to which the girl was subjected, he maintained, "The girl ended her own life by setting herself ablaze." He however failed to explain why the police had not been able to arrest a single person in the case so far.

Living in abject poverty, Guddan's family earned a living out of dish-washing. Their condition could be gauged from the fact that the father did not even have money to purchase drugs and ointments prescribed by the doctor in the government hospital, where recently revised rules allow free treatment only to ministers, ex ministers and legislators.

Local villagers were stated to have contributed for the girl's last rites. Meanwhile much tension prevails in and around the village, where Sunday's bizarre incident would continue to spell terror for every family in Guddan's neighborhood.

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