Brooding over his wife’s death as her funeral pyre burned, a 70-year-old man suddenly broke away from the huddle of mourners and jumped into the flames to end his life in a remote tribal-dominated village of Odisha’s Kalahandi on Tuesday. The horrifying act of former panchayat member Nilamani Sabar choosing to die on his 65-year-old wife Raibari's pyre came days before what will be the 34th anniversary of the controversial Roop Kanwar sati case in Rajasthan.
Kalahandi SP Sharvana Vivek said the incident took place at Sialjudi village in front of family members and relatives, including Nilamani and Raibari’s four sons. The couple had been married for several decades and known to be active in community welfare, he as an ex-panchayat samiti representative and she as a sitting village ward committee member.
“After the pyre was lit, some of the villagers escorted Nilamani’s four sons to a nearby pond for a bath. Nilamani suddenly got up and jumped onto the pyre. By the time the villagers realised what had happened, he was severely burnt. They tried to get him out but the raging fire made it difficult,” the SP said.
Raibari had died in her sleep earlier in the day. The police said since nobody came forward to report the incident, they took suo motu cognisance of it and registered a case of unnatural death under Section 174 of the CrPC. “We have since recorded the statements of the villagers, including the sons of the deceased. They have all corroborated what we know – that the man jumped onto his wife’s pyre on his own,” Vivek said.