NEW DELHI India Jan. 12 Reuter. The discovery of the partly burned body of a widow on her husband’s cremation site seems set to rekindle a controversy in India over suttee.
Newspapers and a news agency reported on Tuesday that 28yearold Shakuntala Devi burnt herself to death in the Lalitpur district of northern Uttar Pradesh State on Sunday.
Suttee, the ritual suicide of a Hindu widow on her husband’s funeral pyre, has been outlawed for more than 100 years.
The suttee of 18yearold Roop Kanwar last September was widely condemned, but even so more than one million people made a pilgrimage to Deorala in the Western desert state of Rajasthan where she died,
The United News of India agency said people had started flocking from surrounding villages to pay respects and throw flowers on the spot where Shakuntala died.
Police and government officials denied that her death was by suttee.
Rajasthan Home Secretary KK. Bakshi said the body had been found not on but near the cremation site.
‘Even if she had died at the very site it doesn’t amount to suttee. It is either suicide or murder”, he told reporters in the State capital Lucknow.
UNI said Shakuntala, dressed as a bride and carrying a coconut, an auspicious token, had encircled a pyre and thrown herself on it.
Police said her death occurred two days after her husband was cremated. The couple had been. Separated for 12 years and Shakuntala lived out of the state. She returned on hearing of her husband’s death in a road accident, they said.
Rajasthan has brought in the death penalty for those abetting suttee since Roop Kanwar’s death. A court accused 32 of the widow’s relatives in November of burning her alive against her will.
Article extracted from this publication >> January 15, 1988