For 25-year-old Sumathi*, getting assaulted by her husband Nagaraj had become an everyday occurrence. However, the events that transpired on the night of March 1 has left her in such a state of shock that she is now scared to even recount the atrocities meted out to her by her husband and in-laws.
Sumathi’s husband and in-laws allegedly poured kerosene on her while she was unconscious and set her on fire at their home in Dabaspet, located in Bengaluru Rural district.
Sumathi’s younger brother Harish says, “My sister never told us that she was being beaten up almost every day for the past eight years by her husband and in-laws. She only told us that she was having trouble with her husband. My mother and I always felt that something was wrong, but we thought it may be misunderstandings that occur between couples. It was only after this incident that we learnt about how much Nagaraj and her in-laws had abused her.”
According to Sumathi’s statement to the Dabaspet Police, on the night of March 1, her husband Nagaraj was drunk when he came home.
“Just like every day, he came home drunk and started to shout abuses at me. My mother-in-law Anniyamma also joined in and they kept complaining about how I could not cook tasty meals. They also taunted me for not bringing in dowry when we married. I was tired of my husband coming home drunk and we got into an argument,” Sumathi said.
Nagaraj and Anniyamma then allegedly began assaulting Sumathi. Nagaraj is said to have hit Sumathi with a pot after which she lost consciousness.
“I don’t remember what happened after he hit me on the head. When I regained consciousness, it was because my chest area was on fire and I was in immense pain. I could not think. I remember screaming, and taking some water and pouring it on myself. It hurt a lot. My husband was panicking and I had to argue with him again. Finally, I was allowed to call my brother, who took me to the Nelamangala Government Hospital,” Sumathi said.
Meanwhile, Nagaraj and Anniyamma had given a false complaint with the police alleging that Sumathi had had an accident. Sub-Inspector Govardhan, the investigating officer in the case, confirmed that Nagaraj had alleged that a cylinder blast was the reason for the burns on Sumathi’s body.
“We brought my sister to the Victoria Hospital Burns Centre because the doctors in Nelamangala said that her injuries required specific treatment. At around 5.10 pm on March 2, we brought her to Victoria Hospital. It was only after we got her here that we realised that her husband had tried to set her on fire,” Harish adds.
The doctors at Victoria Hospital allege that despite intimating the Dabaspet Police four times, the officers did not take Sumathi’s statement.
“They kept saying that it is not a dowry harassment case and neither was it domestic violence. They later gave excuses saying that the officers have been deployed for bandobast… no one showed up to take down Sumathi’s statement,” a doctor at Victoria Hospital Burns Centre told TNM.
On March 9, Harish submitted a complaint to the Chief of the State Women’s Commission, Nagalakshmi Bai, who notified the police to register an FIR.
“Finally, the Dabaspet Police came to the hospital to take her statement. For four hours, they kept asking her the same questions. They kept telling her that registering a dowry harassment case was not wise. They also told her not to file a domestic violence case. They have not registered the FIR for dowry harassment,” Harish said.
Harish alleges that Sumathi’s two-year-old son had witnessed the incident and that his brother-in-law was refusing to hand over the child.
“He is asking us to take back the complaint and not giving us the child. Even the police are not helping us,” Harish added.
The Dabaspet Police have registered a case under sections 498 (A) (domestic violence) and 307 (attempted murder) of the IPC. Nagaraj and Anniyamma were arrested on March 10 and remanded to judicial custody.
When TNM contacted the Dabaspet Police, they refused to comment on the allegations made by Harish that they had refused to register a dowry harassment case.
If you would like to contact authorities who can help in Karnataka:
State Women’s helpline: 1091
Vanitha Sahayavani: 080 22943225
Bangalore women’s police cell: 0821 2418400
You can find more emergency contacts here.