A mob on Wednesday attacked the house of Kumbhapur village’s pradhan in Pratapgarh district alleging her husband to be involved in the murder of a 35-year-old whose body was recovered under mysterious circumstances, resulting in a clash with the police in which several officers were injured.
In the attack, at least five shops and as many vehicles of the pradhan’s family were torched, police said, and added that the mob also clashed with officers and damaged a fire engine.
The police have registered two FIRs. At least seven persons have been arrested in connection with the rioting while the accused in the alleged murder are being questioned by the police.
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Officials at the Sangipur police station, however, claimed that circumstantial evidence suggest Ramesh Verma, owner of a fair price shop in the locality, committed suicide. But officials also said that the family of village pradhan, Savitri Devi, is “ill-famous for its high-handedness” and had harassed the shop owner by getting his license cancelled several times since May last year.
According to the police, Verma’s body was discovered by the villagers around 10 am. The villagers alleged that Verma was poisoned by Shankar Jaiswal, the pradhan’s husband. Verma’s family kept the body on Lalganj-Sangipur Road and arrived at the pradhan’s house accompanied by a mob. One of the pradhan’s sons threw stones at the mob from the roof of his house which led to the violence, the police said.
“The mob torched several vehicles and then broke open the shutters of five shops located on the ground floor of the Jaiswals’ house and set them on fire. When the police arrived, the mob began pelting stones and damaged the fire engine,” said Inspector (Sangipur), Mahavir Prasad.
“Verma’s family has got a murder FIR lodged against Shankar Jaiswal and two others in the pradhan’s family. They are being questioned. Another FIR has been registered in connection with the rioting and arson in which 74 people have been named along with hundreds of unidentified. A company of PAC and senior police officials are camping in the village to maintain calm. The post-mortem has been conducted and the body has been cremated. The cause of death is not clear although the viscera has been preserved,” said Additional Superintendent of Police (West), Dinesh Singh, and added that at least three policemen sustained fracture in the mob’s attack on the police.
The officer said had the police not arrived on time, the mob could have attacked the Jaiswals, known for their high-handed approach towards the villagers, after entering the house.
“Jaiswal had complained against Verma and got the license cancelled in May, last year. Vermas alleged that this was done because Ramesh refused to toe his line in running the shop. The license was restored in January this year but Jaiswal again got it cancelled. Finally, on June 12, Verma’s shop was sealed and the commodities in his shop were seized a couple of days later. He was apparently under a lot of financial stress,” the ASP said.
The police, however, have not ruled out suicide. “In the morning (on Wednesday), Verma had spoken to his lawyer as he apparently wanted to meet some officials. A while later, he was found dead. The spot from where his body was recovered is a matter of investigation as the family had already picked it up and moved it on to the road,” said Singh.