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Paying with life for love

Begusarai, Feb. 2: Natho Das, 25, loved to take risks and finally took one with his life.

The 25-year-old ward commissioner of Khudawanpur panchayat, in Majhaul block, had a reputation for swimming against the tide. Dubbed by neighbours as a man with a “tinge of madness in his courage”, Natho took on “corrupt contractors” and social taboos with equal ease.

Natho lived in a district notorious for its marriages conducted under the shadow of a gun. Yet he dared to love Sabita Devi, who had a failed marriage and a daughter, and offered to marry her, villagers said.

On January 30, the ward commissioner was reported abducted. His bloody body was found in a sugarcane field near his village, Bega, a couple of days later.

“My son was facing a threat from the parents of a 25-year-old woman with whom he was having an affair,” said father Lalit. “The woman had a daughter from her first marriage. Her parents hired goons to kill my son,” he alleged.

“The murder appears to be a planned act by the miscreants who abducted the victim and killed him. The reason for the killing is the victim’s illicit relation with a woman of the same village. He wanted to marry her,” said Kumar Rajesh, Begusarai superintendent of police. “The marriage offer was stiffly opposed by village elders and the woman’s parents,” he said.

Sources said Bega village, about 40 km from the district headquarters, is feudal, where girls’ parents kidnap prospective grooms and force them into marriage.

“Love in any form is still a taboo (here),” said Sreeramchandra Prasad, subdivisional officer of Majhaul. He remembered Natho as an upright panchayat member fighting for issues and sometimes taking them to court. “If parents are hostile to any marriage proposal, this can spark extreme reactions from them, and even lead to murder.”

A Bega resident, too, blamed the affair for the killing and ruled out caste conflict. “There was no caste conflict involved because the woman hailed from Natho’s caste, julaha (weavers),” he said. “But having a relationship with a deserted woman is taboo in the village.”

Natho was encouraged to go ahead with his marriage plan after he became a panchayat member in 2001. “He was receiving threats to his life for some time,” said villager Saroj Das. “A week ago, he was told to steer clear of the woman.”

According to panchayat member Jamshed Alam, “There was a vicious personal campaign against him by vested interests. We had been informing the local police about it. Our apprehension of the worst has come true.”

Police reports said Natho was escorted deep into the cane fields of Khudawanpur and confined there for a day. The assailants then stabbed him on the chest several times. He bled to death, according to the medical report.

“We have been told about the father’s statement of his son’s involvement in a relationship. We are trying to know who is responsible for the killing,” Prasad said.

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