A DALIT couple was hacked to death with an axe by an upper-caste grocery shop owner following an altercation in a village in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday morning over a pending payment of Rs 15 for biscuit packets purchased a few days ago, police said.
The incident, which led to rising tension and heated protests by Dalit groups, occurred in Mainpuri district’s Lakhnipur, just 4 km away from Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s family home in Saifai.
Police said they arrested the main accused Ashok Mishra and his wife Rajni after breaking down the door of their house when they refused to come out, fearing retaliation from the crowd gathered outside.
Officials said that security in the village has been stepped up and policemen deputed to protect the three children left behind by the Dalit couple — Bharat (45) and his wife Mamta (41) — in their hut.
Police said that the children — boys aged 11, nine and eight — were in a state of shock and unable to speak. They added that the couple also had two married daughters; one of them, staying in another village, has been informed about the incident.
According to police, the incident took place around 6 am when Bharat and Mamta were walking towards the fields nearby for work. The couple was stopped by Mishra, leading to a heated exchange over the Rs 15 that was pending for three biscuit packets the couple had purchased from the shop for their children, police said.
Citing eyewitness accounts, police said that Mishra did not relent even though the couple said that they would pay the money from their daily wages that evening.
“While Mishra kept shouting for the money, the couple started walking towards the fields. Mishra then ran to his house nearby and returned with an axe. He hacked Bharat repeatedly and then attacked Mamta who was trying to rescue her husband. The couple died on the spot,” said Nadeem, a villager, adding that the couple had been staying in the village for several years and belonged to the ‘Nat’ community.
The killing led to protests, with people gathering outside Mishra’s house and threatening to lynch him, said police. “But police personnel, led by Mainpuri SP Devranjan Verma and DM P C Gupta, rushed to the village. Police surrounded the house and brought out the accused by breaking down the doors while the DM pacified the mob and assured them of action. The villagers also blocked the road demanding that the police hand over the accused to them,” said a police officer.
“We have lodged an FIR against the accused under IPC section 302 and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The accused has confessed to his crime and we have recovered the weapon, too. Teams from Karhal, Barnal and Kurra police stations are camping in the village to maintain peace,” said SP Verma.