03/19/2014, 00.00
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Hindu man who wanted bigger dowry sets wife on fire

by Christopher Sharma
Birendra Sah also threatened his father-in-law. Police found a can of kerosene and matches at the crime scene. The incident occurred in southern Nepal, a mostly Hindu and Muslim area where violence against women is frequent. For Muslim activist, "We can learn from Catholics to create families based on love and respect."

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Birendra Sah, a Hindu man, set fire to his wife Punam Kumari, 29, in the village of Mirchaiya, in the southern Nepali district of Siraha. The incident occurred yesterday.

According to a preliminary police report, the man was dissatisfied with her dowry, and had threatened her father that he would kill her if he did not come up with more.

"The investigations is still underway," said Naresh Raj Subedi, the police officer in charge of the case, "but at a crime scene we found a can of kerosene and a box of matches. Some neighbours told us that they heard screams and saw flames. "

The area is mostly Muslim and Hindu, and dowry murders are on the rise, the policeman said, a situation that women's rights activist Renuraj Bandari confirms.

"In southern Nepal, women are primarily attacked in traditional Hindu and Muslim communities. Data show that rapes, murders and prostitution are on the rise."

However, Damodar Sharma, a Hindu leader, defends his religion.  "The incident has nothing to do with Hinduism, but with attitudes and problems related to poverty and illiteracy among these people."

Still, such attacks typically occur in Hindu and Muslim communities. There have been no reports involving Catholics or other Christians

Sheikh Chandtara, a Muslim and president of the National Women's Commission, spoke to AsiaNews about it "I can't think of a single case involving Catholic families," she said.

"Most Catholics in our country are educated and live in a peaceful manner. I think Hindus and Muslims should learn about love and peace from Catholic families, so as to create relationships based on respect and harmony."

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