The woman who accused Indian politician Atul Rai of rape in 2019 burned herself alive last week because she was convinced police were siding with her attacker. A now-viral video showed the 24-year-old woman engulfed in flames outside of a Supreme Court building in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district. She died Tuesday.
In the video, the woman’s 27-year-old friend can also be seen burning. The man, a Delhi University graduate, died during treatment on Saturday, reports said. The accuser, who claimed in 2019 that Atul Rai raped her at his apartment, recorded the incident in a Facebook Live video. She broadcasted the video to her followers, claiming before she lit herself on fire that BSP MP Atul Rai had formed an alliance with a judge from Uttar Pradesh and other senior IPS officers.
She believed there was no way her attacker would be given proper punishment for his actions and claimed she was being harassed for her accusations. She said during the video that “the destination they wanted us in, we have reached it… The efforts they have made for the past two years, we have come here to realize their goal.”
She claimed that the Uttar Pradesh Police tried to prove she was “characterless” in an attempt to demean her accusations. During her rant, she named several officials and claimed they all played a role in helping Rai. The names included Senior Superintendent of Police, Varanasi, Amit Pathak, Circle Officer Amresh Singh, a police officer named Sanjay Rai, and his son Vivek Rai.
Her friend then jumped in, saying that “they have been compelling us since November 2020 to die. We want all you, the people of Uttar Pradesh and the country, to hear this.” After his statement, the pair poured flammable liquid on their bodies before dousing themselves in flames.
The self-induced blaze was put out but the woman had already sustained burns on 85 percent of her body. Her friend had burns on 65 percent of his body. The man succumbed to his injuries Saturday.
A senior official at RML Hospital claimed that “we performed surgeries on them the day they were brought to us, but they had severe burn injuries and treatment was difficult. They suffered organ failure.”
The woman accused Rai of raping her in March 2018. An official FIR was filed on May 1, 2019, which claimed that the woman met Rai while contesting student union elections. She sought financial help from the Indian politician for her endeavors. He then allegedly called her to his apartment in Varanasi on March 7, 2018, where he allegedly sexually assaulted her.
He reportedly told the woman that he recorded the attack and threatened to post it on social media if she told anyone. On June 22, 2019, after the alleged victim made her report, Atul Rai surrendered before a court and was taken into custody. He has remained in jail ever since, though he did contest and win the Ghosi Lok Sabha election while in custody.
Currently the rape case is pending official trial at a local court in Prayagraj. Gulab Chandra Agrihari, district government counsel in Prayagraj said that “nine prosecution witnesses have been examined by the court. The statement of the accused is to be recorded in court. After that, the defense will get the statements of their witnesses examined in court.”
The video of the woman and her friend burning alive has made its rounds on social media. A bystander, who was across the street from the court building when the fire erupted, recorded footage of the incident from afar. In that video, both victims could be seen screaming and running around a courtyard while their bodies burned.
Changhez Khan, a lawyer in Delhi posted the video on social media, writing that “a man and a woman allegedly set themselves on fire outside the gate no. D Supreme Court premises.” He added that “the man and woman set themselves on fire after they were stopped at the gate from entering the Supreme Court premises. They were stopped by security guards at the gate after they failed to produce sufficient ID to enter the premises.”