In a bizzare U-turn, Uttar Pradesh police has claimed that the Dalit man who was charred to death in an alleged honour killing had actually set himself on fire to escape a mob.

This claim by the Uttar Pradesh Police is at variance with what the man stated in his dying declaration and the family’s insistence that it is a case of honour killing. Abhishank Pal was allegedly in a relationship with Shivani Gupta whose father reportedly burnt him alive to ‘save the honour.’

In his dying declaration Abhishank Pal fondly called Monu was going to visit his mother who was admitted in hospital when he was caught by Shivani’s father and his associates, who tied him to a charpoy and burnt him alive. Five people including two women have been accused in the case out of which three have been arrested.

Monu’s mother died in the hospital after hearing the news.

An FIR was also registered after Monu’s death which stated that Shivani’s father Radhey Gupta and four others have been booked for, murder, assault, and breach of peace. Radhey Gupta has been arrested by the police.

In a contradictory statement, Senior police official in Hardoi, Alok Priyadarshi, quoted the forensic findings and prima-facie evidence to claim that the man had set himself on fire. The police officer said the Monu had gone to meet his teenage girlfriend, who was from the upper caste, and lived 200 metres from his house in the same village on Saturday night.

“The duo was caught by the girl’s uncle and aunt. They locked Monu in a room before raising an alarm. This triggered mob mobilisation outside the house,” he said.

Monu received severe burn injuries and was referred to Lucknow for treatment, but died on the way on Sunday.

However, the police theory flies in the face of the youth’s dying declaration and contents of the FIR lodged by his family, which states that Monu was tied to a cot and then set on fire. Photographs of the cot on which Monu was burnt have been posted on the social media. His family also claimed that the mob attack was a fallout of a property dispute.

Additional SP (east) Gyananjay Singh said three accused have been arrested while police teams have been formed to nab village locals Satyam Singh and Shikhar Singh, who were also allegedly involved in the crime.

(With inputs from PTI)