The death of a 24-year-old Indian woman, who had set herself on fire last week after alleging harassment by police and judiciary at the behest of an MP she had accused of rape, has once again put the spotlight on the shameful treatment of women in India.

The woman had accused Atul Rai, an MP from the regional Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), of raping her at his home in Varanasi city and registered a police complaint against him in May 2019.

Mr Rai, who denies the accusation, was arrested a month later and has been in jail for the past two years.

Last November, his brother registered a police complaint accusing the woman of forgery. She had called the accusation “false” but earlier this month, a court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against her.

The woman and a male friend did a Facebook live on 16 August before sprinkling petrol on themselves and lighting the fire. They were taken to hospital with severe burns. The man died on Saturday. The woman succumbed on Tuesday evening.

The duo had travelled from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh to the capital, Delhi. Their desperate act, outside India’s Supreme Court, to attract attention to their plight has stunned the country.

In the video recording of the Facebook live, the young woman is seen accusing the MP of using his influence to harass her.

She and her friend name several police officials and even a judge, accusing them of colluding with Mr Rai.

“We have reached the destination they wanted us at. They made efforts for the past year and a half to push us to this point,” she says.

“The authorities have been forcing us since November 2020 to die. We want all of you, the citizens of Uttar Pradesh and the country, to hear this,” her friend says.

“The step we are going to take is painful and frightening. We are also a little scared, but this fear is meaningless,” he adds, minutes before they self-immolate.


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