India's Constitution may have banned the social practice of widows immolating themselves at the funeral pyre of their husbands, but in the heartland of India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, the practice continues to this day.
35-year-old Vidyawati gave up her life on Thursday evening by jumping into the blazing funeral pyre of her husband in a village in Fatehpur district, about 170 km from Lucknow.
Even as local cops were debating whether it was a case of sati or 'forced suicide,' information reaching the state headquarters in Lucknow said the incident took place around 6 pm in Rari-Bujurg village under Binkdi police circle of Fatehpur district.
Sati is the ancient Indian tradition where a woman immolates herself in her husband's funeral pyre.
Fatehpur district superintendent of police Veer Bahadur Singh told rediff.com: "The incident followed the recovery of the body of Vidyawati's husband Lakhan Singh who had been missing since May 15."
"Since Lakhan's body was in a highly decomposed state, it was taken directly for cremation after the post-mortem; Vidyawati came down to the cremation ground on the pretext of offering her last homage to her husband. No sooner than the pyre was in full flames, she jumped into it," he added.
Eyewitnesses told police that one of her relatives did make an attempt to pull Vidyawati out, but failed to do so, and Vidyawati was consumed by fire before the eyes of scores of villagers who had gathered to attend the funeral.
However, some eyewitnesses made contradictory statements, alleging that Lakhan's family members pushed Vidyawati into the pyre. The police have registered a case against Lakhan's brother in the case.