In a gruesome incident, a woman tahsildar in Telangana was allegedly burnt alive by a man in her office in Abdullapurmet in broad daylight on Monday over some land dispute, police and revenue officials said.
Tahsildar Vijaya Reddy, in her mid 30s, died on the spot and two other staff, an attendant and a driver, in the office were injured trying to rescue her, Rachakonda Police Commissioner Mahesh M Bhagwat said, adding the assailant also suffered burns in the daring attack that sent shock waves.
The man collapsed after running for some distance from the office in a bid to escape and he had been taken into custody and hospitalised in a serious condition.
The shocking incident triggered protests by revenue department employees across Telangana, while political leaders condemned it.
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao expressed deep sorrow over the death of the woman tahsildar.
He spoke to police officials concerned after being informed of the incident, instructed them to book the culprit and take stringent action against him, an official release quoted Rao as having said.
The incident happened at around 1.30 PM when K Suresh, a local who came to the office in a bike, poured petrol on her and set her afire using a lighter.
According to preliminary information, he had some land dispute and approached the tahsildar over the matter, the commissioner said without elaborating.
Some time after he entered the tahsildar's chamber, there were cries following which Vijaya's attender and driver rushed.
"...but she came out and collapsed outside her chamber engulfed in flames. The driver and attender tried to extinguish the fire in vain and she died on the spot, Bhagwat said.
The attender and the driver also suffered serious burns in the process and had been admitted to a hospital.
The commissioner told reporters that this was first time that such an incident occurred in a government office in the state capital, adding that an investigation would be carried out into all aspects.
"The man is in our custody. He has suffered 50-60 per cent burns," he added.
The commissioner said police would ensure speedy investigation and the case will be tried in a fast track court and the accused gets the capital punishment as this was a murder and attempt to murder case.
Suresh told police he is a farmer and also into real estate and co-owned 7 acre agriculture land along with his brother. The land was transferred to a tenant and a dispute has arisen over it and a litigation was in the high court.
He further claimed that injustice was meted out to him in the land issue, an investigating official said.
Asked about reports that the accused had faced problems in setting right his land records, the official said they could not confirm it as Suresh was undergoing treatment.
Vijaya Reddy, a 2009 group-II officer, is survived by husband and two children.
According to an eye-witness, a loud sound was heard following which some staff rushed to the Tahsildar's chamber and saw her running out engulfed in flames.
"We heard a loud sound from Madam's chamber and ran towards it and saw madam in flames. We tried to save her," the eye-witness said.
The incident led to chaos in the Tahsildar office, thronged by the public and scores of shocked revenue employees later staged a protest seeking justice while the body of the Tahsildar was being taken to hospital for post-mortem.
Condemning the brutal killing of the Tahsildar, Telangana Director General of Police M Mahendar Reddy vowed to bring the culprit to book.
"Such a barbaric act in a civilised society is totally unacceptable. We shall bring the culprit to book and ensure that the severest of punishment is awarded at the earliest. Justice will be rendered to victim and her family members, the DGP tweeted.
Telangana education minister P Sabita Indra Reddy and senior police officials reached the spot.
The minister said the motive for the attack was yet to be ascertained as the assailant was also injured and currently undergoing treatment in a hospital.
"If there is any grievance people should approach appropriate authorities. Officials also work for the welfare of the people only. They (people) should not resort to heinous acts. This is not the correct way," Sabita Reddy said.
Congress MP from Bhongir constituency Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, who also visited the office after the incident, alleged discrepancies in land passbooks were being witnessed in the state.
Several Telangana Ministers, including IT and Industries Minister K T Rama Rao, and leaders cutting across political lines condemned the incident.