KATHMANDU - Nepalese police were searching for a husband and his parents after they allegedly set his pregnant wife on fire in a demand for dowry, an officer said Tuesday.
Police accuse Farid Sheikh and his parents of pouring kerosene over the 25-year-old woman, who was seven months pregnant, in an attempt to extort a motorbike and water buffalo from her family.
"When the incident happened about a month ago, they took her to India for treatment, saying it was an accident," police official Prem Basnyat told AFP.
After her health worsened and she suffered a miscarriage, her father found out and urged police to file a criminal case against the husband's family in Banke district, western Nepal.
"We recorded her statement yesterday, but her husband and in-laws have vanished. We are searching for them," Basnyat told AFP.
A local human rights group said it brought the woman to a Kathmandu hospital on Monday where she remains in a critical condition, with her entire lower body wrapped in bandages.
The woman has recounted how her husband "assaulted her regularly, saying that she did not bring... dowry. She added that he burnt her private parts with cigarettes," the Informal Sector Service Centre rights group said in a statement.
Nepalese activists have long called for tougher punishments against perpetrators of dowry-related violence.
They say the tradition in Nepal, India and other countries -- where gifts and payments are given to a husband and his family so that a marriage can take place -- is still widely practised, despite an official ban.