Kenda (Purulia), July 3: Tormented by her husband and in-laws for not giving birth to a son, a woman here poisoned her four daughters and hanged herself from a tree.
A cowherd spotted the bodies around 9 am in a forest about 40 km from Purulia town. He ran to the house of the pradhan of Chandra gram panchayat, the nearest to the scene. Police were called in.
A curious crowd had gathered around the bodies much before the police arrived. The dead could not be identified immediately. Malati Mahato, 34, had walked about 20 km from her husband’s house in Barabazar. “We got the news around 11 am and rushed to the Rajar Rakh forest,” said Satyabrata Dutta, the officer-in-charge of the Kenda police station.
Malati had left home yesterday morning with the daughters (between two-and-a-half and eight-years-old) in tow after a tiff with her husband. She also took the two cows that her father had given her husband recently.
Piecing the information together, Dutta said: “Malati initially did not contemplate ending their lives and perhaps thought of trying to fend for herself.” Something went wrong overnight.
She obviously had the extreme alternative in mind when she left home. Malati was carrying sweets mixed with poison and enough rope to hang all five of them.
The rope, the empty box of sweets and a 10-rupee note were found near the bodies. Also found grazing nearby were the two cows, mute witnesses to a horrific act.
The girls — Nehari, 8, Deepali, 6, Shefali, 5, and Namita, 2.5 — took the poisoned shonpapri from her little knowing that this would be their last meal. To make sure they were dead, Malati had throttled the elder two. “There were strangulation marks on their necks,” said Dutta. The bodies were taken away for post-mortem.
The tale of the deaths had spread far and wide and Malati’s husband Sukchand and in-laws Nidhiram and Basubala were among those who had traced their way to the village. “She had left with the children like this earlier. We used to have frequent fights and yesterday it was over the two cows. We thought they would return. Around noon, I heard from some of the villagers that their bodies had been found,” said the husband.
Both Sukchand and his father have admitted that poverty and the birth of four girls were at the root of Malati’s suffering. They also admitted to blaming her for the situation.
The police took them away for questioning. “A case may be started against them for instigating suicide,” said Dutta.