Seventeen-year-old Chabia Khatun had a miraculous escape late on Sunday after she was allegedly set on fire by her landlady.
The incident took place at Kasaipara, in the Garden Reach police station area. On hearing her screams, neighbours rushed into the house to rescue Chabia. She was admitted to National Medical College and Hospital with 75 per cent burns. A complaint was lodged with Garden Reach police station, and the landlady was subsequently arrested.
Initially, the local police put it down as a suicide attempt. But preliminary investigations revealed it to be the fall-out of a tenancy dispute. “The landlady had been trying to evict Chabia’s family for some time. We have started a case against her for attempt to murder,” said an official of Garden Reach police station.
Chabia was alone at home when the incident took place, police said. Neighbours heard her screams around 8 pm. “We noticed smoke billowing out of the single-storey house. We rushed across. When we broke into the room, we found the girl in flames,” said Sheikh Salim, a local youth. “Chabia was writhing on the floor. We grabbed some jute bags and wrapped her in them to douse the flames,” recalled Salim. “Initially, like the police, we, too, thought it was a suicide attempt. So, we rushed her to the hospital immediately.”
Information was sent to the local thana, and the police dropped in to investigate. “We thought it was a suicide bid. But when we started questioning Chabia in hospital, we found it was another case altogether,” said a police officer. Chabia told the police she was set on fire by Chunni, the aged landlady. “I was alone at home. Suddenly, Chunni came from behind and doused me with kerosene. Before I could raise an alarm, she had set me on fire,” Chabia recounted.
Armed with the girl’s statement, police rushed to her house. “Chunni had anticipated that Chabia would be declared dead at the hospital. So, she did not leave her home. On the basis of the girl’s statement, we rounded her up,” said an officer of Garden Reach police station.
Police are asking Chabia’s family for details about the dispute with the landlady. “We are also talking to neighbours, as some of them are key witnesses of the incident,” said the official.
Four drown: Four deaths by drowning were reported in Howrah in as many incidents since Sunday evening. Ajit Singh, 22, of Ferozabad, in Uttar Pradesh, who had come to Calcutta to sit for the railway recruitment exams and was due home on Tuesday, drowned while bathing with friends in the Hooghly on Monday morning. Fourteen-year-old Manoj Kumar Poddar of Shibpur drowned during swimming lessons in the Hooghly off the Botanical Gardens on Monday. In the third incident, Krishna Chakraborty, 30, of Andul’s Chowdhury Para, drowned in a local pond early on Monday. Panchu Mallik, 65, went down the Hooghly at Sankrail on Sunday.