Sangeeta Verma, a government school teacher from Ghaziabad, has died – eight days after she was doused with acid inflicting more than 90 per cent burns.
Mail Today broke the news on Wednesday that the schoolteacher from Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district had been brought to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital.
Sangeeta suffered extensive burns all over her body and had narrated her ordeal to Mail Today with great difficulty. Doctors had said her chances of survival were slim.
Her charred, wasted body gave up on Friday.
She was allegedly attacked with acid and diesel fire by her husband and in-laws over an unfulfilled dowry demand of Rs 25 lakh.
Her husband was arrested on Thursday after Mail Today reported on her alleged 15-year-old battle against dowry harassment.
A hunt is still on to catch her absconding in-laws.
While the Hindu wedding dowry custom has been illegal since 1961, brides’ families often feel it is a matter of honour for the young woman to be given a proper send-off.
Though dowries are not negotiated as much now, a wide difference often exists between what the groom’s relatives expect and the bride’s parents give.
UP’s minister for women welfare Rita Bahuguna Joshi told Mail Today: ‘We are deeply saddened by Sangeeta’s death. Strict action would be taken against her in-laws. The district magistrate and state women welfare ministry are keeping a close watch on the matter and officials from the ministry met the family members on Friday.’
Sangeeta Verma, a government school teacher from Ghaziabad, died eight days after she was doused with acid inflicting more than 90 per cent burns
A preliminary post-mortem report suggests Sangeeta was burnt alive with diesel and acid
Joshi also said the state government will give all permissible support to Sangeeta’s family members and two children as it is a case of dowry and domestic violence.
Experts say burning is the preferred method of killing for desperate husbands and in-laws because it is hard to prove it is murder.
Women in India wearing loose flowing saris while cooking on gas or kerosene stoves often suffer accidental burns.
Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi took to Twitter to express her condolences.
‘Deeply saddened upon hearing that Sangeeta passed away at Safdarjung Hospital, late last night. May her soul rest in peace. We will make every possible effort to ensure that justice is done,’ she wrote, also citing Mail Today’s report.
‘This loss must be shared by all, as another daughter of our nation has lost her life to dowry.’
A senior official from her ministry said Gandhi is likely to meet the victim’s family to ensure justice.
She has also sought an action-taken report from Ghaziabad police.
A senior doctor from Safdarjung Hospital told Mail Today: ‘Preliminary post-mortem reports suggested that Sangeeta was burnt alive with diesel and acid. She passed away at 12.30am.
‘Sangeeta’s body had suffered 90 per cent thermal burn injuries due to which she succumbed. In this type of burns, there are minimal chances of survival.’
‘I had been pleading with my father and family to help me get divorce from my cruel husband for 15 years,’ Sangeeta had told Mail Today.
‘None of my family members listened to me due to societal pressure. Now, see where I am…’
India has the highest number of recorded acid attacks, which are often a form of revenge by angry spouses or rejected suitors.
Ghaziabad’s senior superintendent of police Deepak Kumar said an investigation was ongoing. ‘A report has been submitted to National Commission for Women (NCW) and main accused Sangeeta’s husband has been arrested now,’ he said.
According to her brother, Sangeeta’s husband had bought liquor and indulged in other revelries with the Rs 1.5 lakh she had saved for their kids’ school fees, books and uniform.
This had led to ‘massive arguments’, before the fight over dowry turned ugly on April 13, and her husband and in-laws allegedly attacked her with acid just before she was about to leave for school.
She was first taken to a neighbourhood hospital and later moved to Safdarjung.
‘For the past 15 years, Sangeeta was physically and mentally tortured by her husband and in-laws. Today, she is not with us, but we will fight for justice,’ said Pradeep Verma, Sangeeta’s brother, who is now taking care of her sons — Avni, 13, and Akash, 12.
21 lives lost to dowry every day
By Chayyanika Nigam
Some 21 dowry deaths are reported across the country every day, but the conviction rate is only 34.7 per cent.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) states that in 2015, as many as 7,634 women died in the country due to dowry harassment.
Either they were burnt alive or forced to commit suicide over dowry demand.
Data further reveals that after registration of dowry deaths, police have chargesheeted around 93.7 per cent of the accused, of which only 34.7 per cent have been convicted.
The remaining cases are still pending in various courts.
According to Delhi Police, till March 15 this year, 31 women died due to dowry harassment.
In the last five years, as many as 715 cases of dowry deaths have been reported in the capital and the crime rate have been increasing with every passing year.
Moreover, in Delhi, around 3,877 cases of cruelty by in-laws and husbands were registered in 2016.
Until March 15 this year, as many as 506 such cases were reported in the city.
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry ‘as consideration for marriage’, and dowry here is defined as a gift demanded or given as a precondition for marriage.
Experts say that the existing law has certain loopholes and needs to be made stricter.
Despite amendments made to the Dowry Act in 1983, the desired results are yet desired to be achieved.
Improper investigations at the initial stage of a case slow down the process of judicial proceedings, experts rue.
Items such as jewellery, clothes, cars and money are traditionally given by the bride’s family to the groom and his parents under the outlawed custom to ensure that she is taken care of in her new home.
But often the groom’s family demands more dowry after marriage, resulting in mental and physical harassment that can lead to suicide or murder of the bride.
Dowry has not only turned out to be a bane for women, but even for their families, who often find it hard to arrange the money.