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Activist murder net snaps up duo

Patna, Jan. 27: Investigation into the murder of two social activists on Saturday picked up with police arresting two persons and the Rabri Devi government, under pressure from various quarters, ordering a CBI probe.

Sarita and Mahesh, both in their early thirties, were shot by unidentified gunmen while they were returning after attending a meeting at Shabdo village in Gaya district.

Public anger at the killings was apparent as intellectuals and writers joined street rallies here today and bandhs were observed in protest against the murders by the CPI(M-L) in Gaya and Jehanabad districts.

The scale of the tragedy was highlighted by governor M. Rama Jois when he said during the Republic Day function that a “sense of insecurity has gripped the people of Bihar”. He reminded the government that its greatest responsibility is to ensure security of the public through maintenance of law and order.

The comments re-ignited hostility between the Union government’s representative in the state and the Rashtriya Janata Dal government with party chief Laloo Prasad Yadav dubbing Jois a “BJP agent in the state” and demanding his recall. He threatened to take the issue to the President.

The BJP, which is in the Opposition in the state, retaliated with Sushil Modi, the Opposition leader, saying he would also meet the governor and the President over the state of affairs in Bihar.

The party is agitated because BJP national council member Sikandar Rai was abducted last night while he was returning to Patna from Sasaram after attending a programme.

The two persons arrested today are believed to be associates of a gang led by Budhan and Sadhu Mahato.

“Mahesh and Sarita became the target of the gang as they tried to arbitrate in a dispute over a plot of land purchased by one of the villagers in Shabdo,” said P.A. Kumar Beck, the DIG, Gaya range.

Villagers said the gang had been threatening the two social workers ever since they freed two acres from its clutches.

The gang is also believed to be behind the killing of inspector Krishna Singh of Fatehpur police station.

The policeman was killed in an encounter with the gang last November and investigations have pointed a finger at it, Gaya superintendent of police Sanjay Singh said.

The two are being interrogated to trace Budhan and Sadhu, the key accused in the murders of Sarita and Mahesh, he added. Beck said his team would soon make a breakthrough in the case.

Shaken by the public backlash, Laloo Prasad today visited Shabdo for two hours and promised the villagers that the culprits would soon be brought to justice. Amid posters saying “Sarita bahen amar rahe”, “Mahesh bhai zindabad” on the walls of the houses, he heard the villagers complain that Sarita and Mahesh always wanted him to visit the village once, but he had come when they were no more.

They briefed him on the work undertaken by the two — how the Institute of Research and Action they had started has successfully turned it into a laboratory of socio-economic changes — and the terror unleashed by the Mahato gang.

The RJD chief assured that the work begun by the duo would be carried on and promised to set up their statues in the village.

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