Patna: While Nitish Kumar is getting ready to take oath as Chief Minister for a fourth term on Monday evening (November 16), a shocking incident has emerged as the first challenge for him.
After battling for life for two weeks, a 20-year-old girl, who was undergoing treatment at the Patna Medical College and Hospital after being allegedly set ablaze for opposing an attempt to molest, succumbed to her injuries on Sunday. The victim’s death has triggered protests demanding arrest of the absconding accused and justice for her poor family.
A day after the victim’s death, who was from Rasulpur Habib under Desri Police Station in Vaishali district, Bihar Police have failed to make any breakthrough to arrest the accused.
Angered by police inaction, the villagers as well as students’ and women’s organisations staged protests on Sunday in Patna and are going to take out a candle-lit march on Monday night. “We will protest till the victim gets justice as it is a case of inhuman brutality and police inaction to arrest accused,” Kashif Yunus, an advocate and social activist, one of the protesters, said.
He added that hundreds had protested with the victim's body at Kargil Chowk near Gandhi Maidan in the heart of Patna on Sunday.
Another social activist Ghalib Kaleem said this shocking case has exposed the bitter truth about the ground reality of “sushasan” by ‘Sushashan Babu’ as Nitish Kumar loves to be called. “The victim belonged to a poor family. Her father had died years ago and her mother used to do tailoring jobs at home to earn their livelihood. If such a family does not get timely justice and proper compensation then who else should get it?,” he questioned.
Notably, the incident has come to light at a time when Nitish Kumar has been repeatedly speaking about how rule of law has been established in the state and claimed that he has empowered women.
According to Vaishali Police, the girl was set ablaze on October 30 at her village by a group of three youths – Satish Kumar Rai, Vijay Rai and Chandan Kumar, when she resisted their bid to molest her. All three, residents of the same village, have been named as accused in the case.
As per the victim’s own statement (fardbayan) that she gave to police from the bed of a private hospital in Hajipur, district headquarters of Vaishali, on the night of October 30, she was on the way to throw her household waste to a nearby field when the accused forcibly stopped her and tried to molest her. She further stated that when she warned them that she will inform her mother about it, they threatened to kill her. Soon after Satish took out a kerosene oil bottle from his pant pocket and poured on her body and set her ablaze. It was then that some villagers gathered and rescued her, and took her to a hospital for treatment.
The statement, recorded by Hajipur town police station officer incharge Shailendar Sharma, also said that the accused fled the scene after set ablaze her and left her crying in pain.
“Satish had harassed me several times in the past and repeatedly threatened to kill me and my family if I disclose it to anyone. But I had informed my mother, who complained to his parents. Despite this, Satish did not change and continued to harass me and lastly set me ablaze. I am battling for life after that” the victim’s statement, accessed by NewsClick, said.
Vaishali Superintendent of Police, Manish told NewsClick that an SIT has been set up to investigate the case and to arrest the absconding accused, adding, “Police have got a warrant from the local court to attach property of the accused. It will be done by tomorrow.”
He also said that raids are being conducted by police to arrest the accused.
According to him, police protection has been provided to the victim’s family in the village in view of security threat and tension. Additional police force has also been deployed in the village as accused are from dominant and powerful families.
A police official from the local police station told NewsClick, on condition of anonymity, that negligence on the part of police has resulted in the accused not being arrested so far. “Entire police was busy in holding Bihar Assembly elections and the investigation of this serious case was neglected,” he said.
Highlighting the hypocrisy of Nitish Kumar’s governance claims, Patna-based women’s rights activist, Kanchan Bala, said it was unfortunate that such a shocking incident is hardly getting any space in the national media, adding, “For people outside, Nitish and his ally BJP managed a rosy picture thanks to media management.”