Pradeep Pattanayak

In a tragic fire mishap, a woman, her three-month-old toddler son and five-year-old daughter were charred to death at Uchha Gaon village under Jharpokharia police limits in Mayurbhanj district late last night, leaving several questions to be answered. 

The deceased have been identified as Surukuni, second wife of Mangal Marandi, their three-month-old son Jagdish and five-year-old daughter Sarit. 

Among several others, the question that even a layman of the village is asking is how Mangal, who had slept with his wife and children in the same room, could escape without even a minor burn injury. 

As per the statement Mangal had given to police, like any other day, Mangal, his parents, sister, wife and children had their dinner and went to sleep. While Mangal, his wife Surukuni and their children slept in one room, his parents and sister in an adjacent room. In the first room, Mangal was sleeping with his son while his wife was sleeping with the daughter. 

In the midst of night when they were in deep sleep, suddenly the gas cylinder caught fire and in no time it engulfed the entire room. 

“I tried to save my wife and children but couldn’t as the fire had by then completely engulfed the room,” said Mangal adding, “I immediately called the fire department but by the time they reached, they had already burnt to death,” he added. 

However, the statements of the deceased’s family members and circumstantial evidence are pointing an accusing finger at Mangal. 

Mangal was a fifth year B.Tech student of a Bhubaneswar based institution. Surukuni was his second wife as his first wife had left him after difference of opinions. They fell in love and got married in 2011. He had two children from his second marriage. 

If Mangal’s version is true, questions like how the gas cylinder and stove didn’t have any sign of burnt, how he couldn’t save his son with whom he was sleeping, how he could escape without any burn injury, how his parents and sister sleeping in the next room didn’t know about the incident are obvious to come to one’s mind and one would accuse Mangal of homicide. 

“It is a clear cut murder case. My sister and her children were set on fire after dousing them with petrol. To pass it off as an accident, he (Mangal) is claiming that gas leaking from the cylinder caused the mishap. If that was true, the cylinder would have exploded. So there is not an iota of truth in his version,” said deceased woman’s cousin brother, Dana Majhi. 

On being informed, Mayurbhanj SP Rishikesh Khilari along with police and scientific teams reached the spot, collected evidences, recovered the bodies and sent them for post mortem. 

Meanwhile, Jharpokharia police have detained Mangal and launched an investigation.