A day after three Dalit girls, two of them minors, were found murdered near their native Piparbhulli village in Deoria district, police claimed to have cracked the case and said a spurned lover, aided by three of his associates, committed the crime.
They arrested four persons, including main accused Sonu Harijan, a resident of Piparbhulli village, and his friends Dheeraj Gaur, a resident of Paina village in Barhaj, and Amresh alias Loha of Fakaipur village. Another accused, Raj Kokil, is at large. Police also arrested Ritesh, 22, of Laar town for sheltering the accused persons and claimed to have recovered a blood-stained axe and a sickle-like equipment from the accused.
A police spokesperson said the postmortem, conducted by a panel of doctors, including two women experts, did not confirm sexual assault on any of the three victims.
The girls aged 18, 14 and 9, had gone to fields Friday afternoon to collect fodder but never returned. Their families had lodged missing complaints the same day and their bodies were recovered about 2 km away from their village Saturday morning.
Deoria SP Manoj Kumar said main accused Sonu liked the 18-year-old girl and had been following her. The girl did not like him and his advances towards her and it had even led to a brawl on Holi, the SP said.
“Sonu asked Dheeraj, who knew the girl, to call her to the fields. Once the girl reached there accompanied by two minor girls, who are her neighbours, she was killed by Sonu and his three associates. The minor girls were murdered because they had seen the accused persons,” said Kumar.
The incident led to demonstration by local residents who demanded Rs 50 lakh as financial assistance to their family.
Earlier in day, chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes P L Punia met the family members of the girls and said he would seek from UP government financial help of at least Rs 10 lakh for each them. He also slammed the state government alleging that there was complete ‘jungle raj’ in the state.
Meanwhile, the state government announced a reward of Rs 50,000 each to policemen who worked out the murder case.