A day after Jayram Manjhi (35) and his 16-year-old niece were lynched and then set afire by a mob at Amaitha village in Bihar’s Gaya district as punishment for allegedly being lovers and eloping, Manjhi’s family members have accused the girl’s father, aunts and uncles of being responsible for the incident.
They claimed that the girl’s aunts Baby Devi and Parwati Devi — who have since been arrested — came up with the idea of meting out punishment for the alleged lovers rather than handing them over to the village panchayat or police.
Sukri Devi, sister-in-law of Jayram Manjhi who claimed to be an eyewitness to the killings, said: “My brother-in-law had left the village with the girl on Sunday. She used to call him fufa (uncle) and joke around with him. Nobody guessed what was going on between them. It was the girl’s father — Bhola Manjhi – and his brothers who decided to kill them. They warned us to stay away or face reprisal.”
Jayram and the girl were brought to the village from nearby Paharpur railway station, where they had been spotted after their alleged elopement, in the early on Wednesday, said Sukri Devi.
Once they were back in Amaitha, “Bhola Manjhi started beating them with wooden sticks till they fell unconscious,” said Sukri Devi.
“After an hour of beating, Bhola’s families dragged the unconscious duo to a small river and put them on a hurriedly-prepared pyre on the bank. We kept crying for help but no one came forward,” she said.
She added that her sister, Jayram’s wife Sharda Devi, was at her in-laws’ place at the time of the incident.
Pintu Manjhi, brother-in-law of Jayram, said the incident took place before most villagers of Amaitha had even woken up.
He claimed that Jayram had not been given a chance to tell his side of the story. “I could not have challenged Bhola and his five brothers. We pleaded with Bhola to hand over my brother-in-law to police, but they wanted instant punishment for the two, without involving any of the villagers,” said Pintu.
The residences of Bhola Manjhi and his brothers were found to be locked.
Karu Manjhi, a neighbour, said they had left the village after the incident.
Amaitha village, which falls under the jurisdiction of Wazirganj police station, has nearly 100 families; 50 of these are Manjhi households.
Jayram’s in-laws and Bhola Manjhi had allegedly argued over the relationship between him and the girl, who reportedly often visited a provisions shop run by the victim in the village.
Kesar Manjhi, an elderly villager, said: “There was no such acrimony between the two families. The matter went out of hand only after the couple eloped. Bhola’s family could not take it. It was a matter between the two families”.
B P Yadav, a villager, said though they had information about Jayram eloping with his niece, they had no idea when they were brought back to Amaitha.
“The villagers had no idea and the mukhiya (panchayat chief) lives at Mangrawa village. Had the issue come to the panchayat, the two would have been alive today,” said Yadav.
Police have arrested two of the girl’s aunts for allegedly provoking the killings, said Gaya Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj. adding that Bhola Manjhi and his brothers are absconding.