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Lecturer set afire by stalker dies, kin seek speedy justice

Press Trust of India  |  Nagpur 

The 25-year-old woman lecturer who was set ablaze by a stalker in Maharashtra's Wardha district last week died while undergoing treatment at a hospital here on Monday morning, officials said.

Ankita Pisudde, resident of Hinganghat town in Wardha, had been critical after sustaining 35 to 40 per cent "grade III" burns on February 3 when she was set afire allegedly by one Vikesh Nagrale (27) while she was on way to her college, they said.

She was undergoing treatment at the Nagpur-based Orange City Hospital & Research Centre where doctors declared her dead at 6.55 am on Monday, Hinganghat's police inspector Satyaveer Bandiwar said.

Later, some angry locals threw stones to block a road in Hinganghat when an ambulance carrying the woman's body was about half-a-kilometre away from the victim's native village Daroda, but the police brought the situation under control.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray expressed grief over the woman's death and said "the case would be heard in a fast track court". He urged Hinganghat residents to maintain peace.

Thackeray said his government will study the Disha Act, enacted recently by the Andhra Pradesh government, and try to make laws stricter to prevent such incidents in future.

The Disha Act mandates completion of investigation into cases of sexual offences within seven working days from the time of record and trial within 14 working days from the date of filing the charge sheet.

Pisudde's distraught father said he hoped his daughter would get speedy justice and it would not be delayed like the Nirbhaya gangrape case.

"The accused should also go through the pain that my daughter went through in these seven days. We want justice as soon as possible and it should not be delayed as in the Nirbhaya case," he told reporters outside the hospital.

State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh also said the case trial would be held in a fast track court and a family member of the victim would be given a government job.

The woman sustained deep burn injuries on scalp, face, right upper limb, left hand, upper back, neck and eyes along with severe inhalational injuries, the hospital said in a medical bulletin.

She died of "septicemic shock" after suffering from deep dermal burns along with severe inhalational injuries, respiratory distress and related complications, it said.

Around 4 am on Monday, her oxygen levels deteriorated inspite of ventilator support, coupled with decreasing urine output and reduction in blood pressure, the hospital said.

As part of immediate resuscitation measures, medicines were escalated to maintain the blood pressure and all feasible steps were taken to improve the oxygen levels in blood, but the patient remained "extremely critical", it said.

"Around 6.30 am, she had bradycardia and inspite of prolonged cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the patient could not be revived and was declared dead at 6.55 am," it said.

During her treatment, she underwent tracheostomy (creating an opening in neck to place a tube into the windpipe to allow air to enter the lungs), burn dressings, debridement and escharotomies, the hospital informed.

Debridement is a medical procedure to remove dead, damaged or infected tissue, while escharotomy is a surgical procedure used to treat full-thickness (third-degree) circumferential burns.

The woman's family was kept informed about her deteriorating health condition and death, the hospital said, adding that the body was later handed over to police for postmortem and other formalities.

While heavy security was deployed in Hinganghat, some angry locals threw stones to block the road when the ambulance carrying the body was on way to the victim's native village for her last rites.

The local police, however, managed to control the situation and the Rapid Action Force was also deployed in the area, an official said.

"The situation is normal now. All roads to the village are open. The victim's last rites are expected to take place in the evening when her younger brother, who is out of town, reaches the village," Wardha's Superintendent of Police Basavraj Teli told PTI.

Talking to reporters in Mumbai, Home Minister Deshmukh said he spoke to the victim's relatives and assured them that the case would be fast-tracked.

"Efforts were made to save the victim, but we are sorry she could not survive. The state government stands with the victim's family. A government job and all other assistance will be provided to the victim's family," he later tweeted.

State Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat also expressed grief over the victim's demise.

"The state government is trying to award hard punishment to the accused by running the case in a fast track court," he said.

NCP MP Supriya Sule in a tweet said, "This case will be heard in the Fast Track Court and the State Government will ensure that justice is done."

State Women and Child Development Minister Yashomati Thakur called for starting a struggle against such "violent mentality of men".

"I am feeling numb, mute today...the victim's struggle for life is over, let's start a struggle against this violent-manly mentality," she told reporters at Chikhaldara in Amravati.

The government stands with the woman's family in this hour of grief and is taking concrete steps ensure justice to the victim, she added.

State Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil said the public favours death penalty for the accused in such cases, and the judiciary should consider it.

The state government has appointed well-known lawyer Ujjwal Nikam as special public prosecutor in the case.

Several locals, mostly women and students, took out a march in Wardha city last Thursday, demanding death penalty for the accused.

According to the victim's relatives, Nagrale, who was arrested within hours of the incident on February 3, had been harassing her for quite some time.

Nagrale and the woman were friends till two years ago when she severed ties with him due to his "irrational behaviour", the police earlier said.

A special team led by Deputy Superintendent of Police Trupti Jadhav will probe the case, the Wardha Police said last week.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 10 2020. 15:38 IST