A journalist's mother died on Tuesday in northern India after claiming that two police officers lit her on fire after she declined to pay a bribe of more than $1,500 to help her husband get out of jail.
With 80 percent of her body burned, Nitu Dwivedi died at a hospital in the Uttar Pradesh state capital of Lucknow, according to media reports. Dwivedi had initially checked into a hospital on Monday in Barbanki district, where she was allegedly set on fire, before being relocated to Lucknow.
According to her account of the incident, which she relayed to a magistrate, the 40-year-old was at the police station trying to get her husband out of jail. He had been called in for questioning about a criminal incident, the BBC reported. She said she was asked to pay the cops a bribe of 100,000 rupees ($1,578).
The Independent reported that the men "abused and humiliated her before setting her alight."
Officers have refuted this account of the incident, claiming instead that she self-immolated at the station. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has called for an investigation, and officials have suspended the cops.
Photos of Dwivedi have circulated on social media, while her son — a local journalist — has also brought public attention to the issue.
Dwivedi's death comes about a month after journalist Jagendra Singh died after police in Uttar Pradesh allegedly dumped gasoline on him and lit him on fire in the town of Shahjahanpur. According to Singh, he was targeted for covering illicit activities of government officials. He sustained burns on 60 percent of his body.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP party spoke out against the Uttar Pradesh police after this week's incident.
"A similar incident happened in Shahjahanpur. The police, who are supposed to be the protector of society, are themselves the reason for fear," BJP leader Vijay Bahadur Pathak said, according to local media outlet Zee News.
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