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US: Indian sets daughter, family ablaze

January 02, 2008 10:48 IST

A 57-year-old Indian man has been charged with killing his pregnant daughter, son-in-law and grandson by setting afire their apartment in Illinois in the United States because he was upset over her marrying a man from a "lower caste".

Subhash Chander faces three counts of first-degree murder, one count of homicide of an unborn child and one count of aggravated arson, and was denied bail by Judge Martin E  McDonough.

Monika Rani, 22, Rajesh Kumar, 36, and their son, Vansh, 3 were killed in the weekend blaze. Rani was about five months pregnant, authorities said.

Chander told the police that he was upset with his daughter and son-in-law because they married without his consent and he considered Kumar to be from a "lower caste", first assistant state's Attorney Robert Milan was quoted as saying by the media.

But Chander's sister Kamla Devi said it was not true.  She said the family accepted the marriage and that the caste system was not a factor to the family at all.

She claimed it was something that "people have brought up in the US since the family has immigrated from India".

On the night of the fire, Chander went to a gas station to buy gas for his son, but decided to give it to his daughter instead. After arriving at her door, he said, Kumar told him that it was late and asked him to leave.

He told police that Kumar started to push him and some of the gas from the container in his hand spilled onto the carpet just inside the door. Chander told police that he became "upset and angry" and pulled a lighter from his pocket and set the carpet on fire.

Chander said that he did not call police or the fire department to report the fire, nor did he call his daughter to make sure she and her family were safe.

Milan said a gas station attendant identified Chander in a lineup, and that officers recovered the plastic container that held the gas, a pharmaceutical container that had a prescription label with Chander's name on it.

The three victims died of carbon-monoxide poisoning and smoke and soot inhalation, and their deaths were ruled homicides on Monday by the Cook County medical examiner's office.

The blaze was started with a flammable material on the second floor of the two-storey apartment building Saturday night which had become home to newly arrived, working-class immigrants, particularly from India, former residents said.

When firefighters arrived at the apartment complex, residents were jumping from the balconies, and flames were consuming the 36-unit building, Berger said.

 However, none of the survivors was injured, he said.

On Monday morning, former residents of the gutted building lined up in the cold to get access to their apartments and salvage what they could.

"All I have left is this jacket and what I'm wearing," a distraught Karamjit Singh said. "I just don't believe this happened."

"We have to start over and find a new place," said Ruchi Patel. "It was a good place for us," said Patel, 18, who had moved to the complex two months ago.

Many residents were students, elderly immigrants or newly married couples who stayed there long enough to buy their own homes, she said.

 

 

 

 

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