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Girl fights off rape bid, set on fire

Patna, July 11: A 17-year-old girl was set on fire allegedly by a youth when she tried to fend off his “rape” bid in Banka’s Salempur village, around 270km southeast of Patna, last night.

The Class XII student was first taken to Salempur primary health centre but later shifted to a Bhagalpur-based hospital with over 60 per cent burn injuries. This evening, she was referred to a Bokaro-based burns hospital for treatment.

The accused, identified as Manoranjan Rai, Kailash Rai’s son and a resident of Galimpur, is absconding after the incident.

The victim’s family told the police that Manoranjan barged into their house around midnight and tried to molest the teenager. When she protested, the tormentor poured kerosene on her and set her on fire, causing severe burn injuries.

“We ran towards the room, where she sleeping after hearing her cries,” the girl’s father, Ram Prakash Pandey, reportedly told the Akbarpur police.

Banka superintendent of police (SP) Satya Prakash said a special police team, led by the station house officer of Akbarpur police station, Mahesh Kumar, has been formed to arrest the accused.

“The SIT is conducting raids to arrest the culprit at the earliest,” he told The Telegraph.

The SP said the accused was pressurising the girl belonging to a different caste to marry him. But the teenager’s was against the proposal.

“The possibility of a love affair between the boy and the girl cannot be ruled out. But we are not sure about this aspect,” he said, adding that the priority of the police was to save the girl’s life.

He said the police would record the statement of the teenager after she recovers. “But she has revealed the name of her tormentor. An FIR has already been lodged against the accused with the Akbarpur police station,” added the SP.

A doctor, attending to the girl, said she had suffered more than 60 per cent burn injuries, which may prove fatal for her.

Banka sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) Shashi Shankar visited the village today and recorded the statement of witnesses, including the girl’s brother, Ankit.

The brother told the SDPO that he was sleeping in a room adjacent to his sister’s last night. Around 1am, he heard his sister’s cries.

He rushed to find her engulfed in flames. On rushing out, Ankit saw Manorajan, fleeing from the spot. The tormentor, however, managed to escape under the cover of darkness.

“On hearing the hue and cry, a number of people gathered on the spot. They dispersed after the victim was taken to Salempur primary health centre for treatment,” he told the police officer.

The SDPO said the girl had stated that Manoranjan set her on fire on protesting his bid to rape her. “Instructions have been issued to the SHO concerned to ascertain Manoranjan’s criminal antecedents,” he added.

The incident has sent shockwaves among the local residents, who were worried over spurt in the incidents of sexual harassment in the district.

“The situation has come to such a pass that nobody wants to send young daughters to school. Hardly a day passes without any incident of eve-teasing. Cellphones have proved a headache for parents,” said Jawahar Pandey, a resident of Amarpur block headquarters, around 260km east of Patna.

Alarmed over such incidents, the state police headquarters has asked the superintendents of police to initiate steps to check crime against women.

“The SPs have been told to accord priority to contain the incidents of crime against women,” said inspector-general (weaker section) Arvind Pandey.

The state has witnessed a sharp rise in incidents of crime against women in the past two years, recording 11,748 cases in 2013. Of that, 1,128 cases of rape and 326 incidents of sexual harassment were reported in 2013.