How a neglected spark burned a house

How a neglected spark burned a house

The obscure Janatha Colony in Doddabele off Soladevanahalli here witnessed on Thursday night how a slight argument among neighbours, if left unsolved, can become a feud and eventually claim a life.

Two families, who once shared each other’s happiness and grief, fought much the same way two households are shown exchanging blows in the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s famous short story, ‘A Spark Neglected Burns the House’.

The colony, inhabited mostly by daily wage labourers, was deserted on Friday, with elders choosing to stay indoors as police went after four persons who allegedly set afire their neighbour after she quarreled with them over a petty domestic issue.

Ravikala was allegedly chased down by her neighbour Munithayamma Mundanappa and the latter’s three children, Manjunath, Murali and Roopa, and burnt alive in full public glare. Ravikala and Munithayamma fought frequently over a rope the former had tied across a common passage to dry clothes.

“They never heeded our advice. Both of them would always have some scores to settle,” Thayappa, Ravikala’s neighbour, said.

“What started as a petty issue ended in a tragedy.” Men in both the families were good friends and shared happiness and grief. But they became enemies when Ravikala and Munithayamma began fighting.

Initially, neither Ravikala’s husband Narasimha Murthy nor Manjunath and Murali gave attention to the squabble. But they could not remain insulated from it, and came to be influenced by their respective family members. The two families refused to reconcile when elders suggested so, Soladevanahalli police inspector said.

The fights then became a regular feature and other residents stopped taking them seriously. They did not bother to intervene as the two women would not heed anybody’s advice, he said, ruing that residents could have prevented the tragedy.

“Most shocking was the reaction of residents who watched the brutal murder as mute spectators. They did not even bother to take the victims to hospital... did not even console Ravikala’s children (Prajwal and Nitish) who were pleading for help and crying,” the police officer added. 

Only later did one of them call up 108 ambulance and the victims were taken to a nearby hospital. Ravikala’s body would have been charred and his brother Ravi Kumar dead had the ambulance not been called. Doctors said Ravikala would have been alive if she was brought early, the inspector said.

There is also a twist in the tale as a love affair is said to have driven the murder. Ravikala is said to have been “close” to Manjunath, which sparked off tension between the two families who would then quarrel even over petty issues.

The dispute over the rope was just a “trigger” for the showdown, police sources stressed. “We have booked a case based on Kumar’s complaint. It would take time for us to collect details. We will have to verify such claims (about love affair) only after an investigation,” Sandeep Patil, DCP (North), said.

Murthy was not at home when the incident occurred and no eyewitness came forward to help him. It would have been treated as suicide if Kumar had not been there, police said.

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