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Kin Killed Widow, India Court Told

November 23, 1987|From Reuters

NEW DELHI — Roop Kanwar, a young widow said to have committed sati (ritual suicide) on her husband's funeral pyre in September, was actually burned alive by her relatives, a court was told.

The Press Trust of India news agency on Sunday reported on a preliminary hearing in Jaipur against 32 members of Kanwar's family and others who witnessed her death in Deorala village in northwest India.

The sati was hailed by traditional Hindus as a holy and voluntary act. However, trial papers allege that the 18-year-old widow was forced onto the pyre by four men armed with swords and covered to shoulder height with firewood so that she could not escape.

At one point, the fire went out and Kanwar tried to free herself, they said, but she was forced back. Twice she tried to speak, but her cries were allegedly drowned out by shouts from about 400 villagers who had gathered to watch.

The papers also claim that the accused, who include Kanwar's father and in-laws, started collecting funds from devotees the next day, suggesting a "vested interest" in her death.

The widely publicized September incident led to protests against the practice of sati by feminist groups in New Delhi and counterdemonstrations by traditional Hindus.

Kanwar and her husband, 24-year-old Man Singh, had been married only eight months when he died of a ruptured appendix.

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