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She accidentally burned her husband



On a spring night in 1989, Deepak Ahluwalia put the hot iron on his wife's face, holding her hair tightly

The irons burned the wife's skin as she struggled to escape from the husband's grip in a way that left a mark on her face

Kirangit Ahluwalia said the incident put her at risk and described her life as a decade of mistreatment of her husband

"I could not sleep," she tells the BBC 30 years later. "I was screaming hard, I was physically and psychologically hurt.

I wanted to hurt him as he did to me
I want him to feel the same pain as I did
I only thought about this. My mind stops completely from thinking

While he was sleeping on his bed that night, she poured gasoline on her husband's foot and set it on fire. She pulled her son and ran out of the house

"I thought I burned his foot so he could not catch up with me, and to always remember me every time he looked at his scar

Kirangit insists she did not intend to kill her husband

But he died 10 days after the accident

In December of the same year, Kirangit was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment

Kirangit grew up in Punjab, northern India, and although her parents died when she was 16, she said her childhood was compassionate. She was the youngest of nine brothers and sisters

Then pressure began to increase to marry her at the end of her teens

"I did not want to get married at all, I went to my sister in Canada, I did not want to settle in India, I got married and had children like my brothers, I wanted to work, make money and live my own life

But she found it something like that not accepted, especially since her sister in England found someone suitable for marriage

"He came to Canada to see me, we talked together for five minutes, and I said I agreed, I knew it was inevitable, I had to get married, and that happened

"He was very handsome and attractive," she says, recalling her first impression of her husband. But she did not know when his mood was fluctuating, he was quiet in a minute, and rude in another minute

She says the abuse began on the first day of their marriage

"When he got angry, he screamed and threw things and pushed me and threatened me with knives, choked me many times, I was bruised and I could not speak many times

"I remember on his birthday I was working extra time and buying him a gold ring as his birthday present," she says. "That week, he broke my tooth with this ring

Every time she tried to leave the house, Kirangit says, he found her and beat her

Five years after their marriage, the couple visited India and Kierangit told her older brother that she was ill-treated. Her family was initially harassed and, after the husband's apology, persuaded her to return home

A few months later, they returned to England and began to attack again

Deepak started extramarital relationships and asked for money from his wife, which led to a pre-burning quarrel

I could not escape, I could not get divorced, there was family pressure to have a child, he said

"It has not changed, it's gotten worse"



When she appeared before the court on charges of murdering her husband, Kierangit said that the abuse she suffered was ignored and she was angry when she heard the verdict

Prosecutors said Kirangit committed her crime out of jealousy from her husband's relationship, and the interval between the quarrel and her revenge was enough to make her calm down and think wisely about her actions

"I was convinced that British law is a modern law and that they will understand me and will understand my suffering," she says. "They do not know how many years I have suffered

Kirangit says she felt free, in prison, because she had moved away from her husband

She played badminton and studied English and co-wrote her book, which later turned into a film telling her story

Her case was supported by Southhall Black Sisters (Black Sisters Southhall), a charity that supports women of color and Asia

"We tried to talk to lawyers at that time, and we tried to educate them about the cultural context, and why it is difficult for those who like them to leave an abusive and violent marriage," said Branga Patil, the organization's director

But she said the court "did not hear" and lawyers "did not care" about the cultural background



Through ongoing campaigns and hard legal work of the Organization, the Kierangit appeal was accepted in 1992, on the grounds that liability was not fully borne

The Court heard new evidence of its long-standing frustration with years of violence and abuse

The court accepted the idea that the time between the quarrel and the execution of the incident was enough for Kirangit to "stir up anger" rather than "calm

She was retired and sentenced to three years and four months in prison, the same period she actually served in prison
She was immediately released.

The moment of her release was a historic moment, and the court accepted the idea that women victims of abuse may react "slowly" rather than immediately

I have already sent a message saying that women who are offered for murder do so as a result of domestic violence and should not be considered cold-blooded.

"We can change the intellectual trends in our societies," she says. People hug Kirangit and see her as a hero, rather than an aggressor

"This was an important moment in the history of women's struggle against violence in this country, especially with regard to minority women, because it was the first time that gender-based violence had been thought, accepted and acknowledged, and that some of the ways we treat women are to some extent responsible "He said

"A decisive moment"
Kierangit's appeal remains the most prominent case of Southhall Black Sesertz since it was founded 40 years ago

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