PATNA: Fifteen people were arrested in Jharkhand on Saturday in connection with the gang-rape and brutal murder of a 16-year-old girl in Chatra district. The girl was set on fire by some of the accused after the village panchayat imposed a fine on them for the crime.
“Dhanu Bhuiyan, the main accused, and 14 others involved in these ghastly incidents have been arrested. Raids are being conducted to ensure the arrest of five others who played different roles in these incidents,” said Jharkhand’s IGP (headquarters) Shambhu Thakur, who visited Chatra to oversee the investigation.
The victim was allegedly kidnapped by four accused from a wedding ceremony she was attending with her family members on Thursday. She was raped by some of the accused and sent back to her home in Rajkendua village under Itkhori police station in the eastern Jharkhand district.
The matter was brought before the village panchayat by the victim’s family. The panchayat, after discussing the matter on Friday morning, imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the accused youths and also asked them to do 100 sit-ups each.
“The accused men were livid at the panchayat verdict and had a quarrel with its members. Then they rushed to the girl’s house, beat up her parents, and set her afire,” said IGP Ashish Batra. Kerosene was poured on the girl before she was set afire, said a police official.
The state government has announced an ex gratia of Rs 2.5 lakh to girl’s family, whose house has been gutted. Rs 1 lakh was paid to the family as an immediate relief.
Among those arrested are the panchayat mukhiya Tileshwari Devi and panchayat samiti member Ranjay Rajak. “Since the alleged crime was of a compoundable nature, a panchayat should not have decided it. But the panchayat sat on judgment and passed a verdict and a punishment, which led to the girl’s murder,” said a senior police officer.
The victim and the main accused knew each other for some time and also were in love, according to sources with knowledge of the panchayat meeting.
Jharkhand State Women’s Commission chairperson Kalyani Sharan has urged state DGP, DK Pandey, to ensure speedy trial in the case and ensure that the accused are sentenced in record time.
Former CM Hemant Soren of the Opposition JMM and Congress Rajya Sabha member Dhiraj Sahu criticised the state’s BJP-led government over the rise in heinous crimes against women. Congress organised a protest march in Ranchi on Saturday, which was attended by a large number of school and college students.