Sagar, MP, Apr 6: A special court sentenced four persons to life imprisonment while acquitting 13 in the Patna Tamoli 'sati' incident, which occurred on August 6, 2002 in Panna district.
Special court Judge A K Mishra yesterday convicted the victim 62-year-old Kuttu Bai's two sons Ashok Kumar (45) and Raj Kumar (35) besides brothers Jai Narayan (34) and Deep Narayan (33) who stopped police personnel from preventing 'sati'. They were slapped fines of Rs 500 each and in default they would serve an extra three months in jail.
The judge provided benefit of doubt to 13 others.
According to prosecution, Kuttu Bai -- of Patna Tamoli village -- leaped into the pyre of her husband who had a natural death. The victim's relatives assaulted and prevented police personnel from removing the woman from the pyre.
Following a public outcry, as 'sati' is rare in Madhya Pradesh, the then chief minister Digvijay Singh's Congress government imposed an ''economic embargo'' for two years on the village for not preventing sati.
The National Commission for Women had taken suo motu cognisance of the episode and constituted an inquiry committee led by the then NCW chairperson Poornima Advani.
As per the NCW, two police personnel ''failed'' in their attempt to pull her out of her husband's funeral pyre. This incidence was the third of its kind in that village and the inquiry committee observed a structure, in the cremation ground, constructed in memory of a 'sati' that took place about five decades back.
''The family of the deceased was aware of her intention of committing 'sati' as she had already told them a few days before as she realised that her husband would die soon. The superstitious villagers were silent spectators and did not try to stop her,'' a NCW report said.
''Instead, they gathered in the cremation ground with coconut, camphor and other offerings. The local public representatives also did not reach the site of incidence except for informing the police station concerned. Hence, they are accountable for such atrocities taking place in their area. Though the police reached the spot, but their numbers were not adequate,'' it added.
The government halted financial assistance to the panchayat for several schemes such as the Indira Awas Yojana.
Patna Tamoli was among the prosperous villages of Bundelkhand region with more than half of its families engaged in betel cultivation.
After the embargo, power supply became meagre and erratic. About 200 dalit families in the village, dominated by the Chaurasia community, were in penury due to unemployment.
A police post was set up at the sati site to prevent glorification.