woman in shadow
A female teacher in rural India was set ablaze by her husband in front of her students, who watched on in horror - Representational image iStock

A man in a village in the southern Indian state of Karnataka barged into a classroom where his wife was taking classes and set her ablaze in front of her students, media reports said.

The incident reportedly took place on Wednesday (16 August) in a government-run school in Shambaiahnapalya village, located around 55km from the state capital, Bangalore.

Police have launched a manhunt for the accused, identified as Renukananda.

The 50-year-old victim, KG Sunanda, suffered 50% burns and was undergoing treatment at a private hospital. Doctors said that the burns were severe and the patient was being kept under observation, according to the Times of India.

The gruesome incident took place when Sunanda was teaching Social Science to grade five students at the government-run school in her village.

The husband, allegedly entered the classroom, had a loud argument with Sunanda. He then suddenly poured petrol on her before setting her ablaze.

"Around 2pm [local time (9.30am BST)], a man entered the classroom and shouted at the teacher, and they argued for a while. The teacher asked him to leave the room," a student reportedly told police.

"He opened a bottle and poured liquid on her. He struck a match and set her on fire. We were helpless and screamed," the student said.

The man then left the burning woman in the class and stormed out of the room and the school building.

Her students rushed to the other teachers to seek help, when the headmaster of the primary school teaching in the adjacent room came rushing.

"The moment I heard her screams, I ran out of my classroom and saw Renukananda running from the school towards his parked car," M. Shivanna, the headmaster, said. "I entered the classroom and saw Sunanda engulfed in flames."

He used a table cloth to douse the fire, according to The Hindu. The students also rushed to get water to help put out the fire.

Police are trying to establish the motive behind the act, but media reports claimed that the couple fought over financial issues. The accused was reportedly the victim's second husband.

"A special team has been formed to track down the accused," Superintendent of Police B. Ramesh said.

Police also said that the accused was allegedly demanding money from his wife to start a business, but she gave away her savings to her son for his engineering education.