Ranchi, July 16: A couple condemned to death by a Latehar village kangaroo court for “practising witchcraft” and a reporter on the trail of the story were rescued today when the scribe managed to send an SMS to the superintendent of police who rushed a team to the site in 10 minutes flat.
The reporter, who declined to be named, had on the basis of a tip-off reached Puro village in Mahuadanr area of Latehar to see for himself the proceedings of a kangaroo court where 100-odd people passed a “death sentence” on the couple.
On July 8, farmer Robert Lakra (65) and his wife Celestina (60) were held responsible by the almost fully literate village for recent livestock deaths and when both denied the allegations, they were subjected to the inhuman humiliation of being forced to eat their excreta and drink their urine.
The intrepid reporter, who had been following developments, got wind of the traditional panchayat sitting today and reached Puro around 1pm. He was taken captive when villagers noticed him in their midst, but managed to send an SMS to Latehar SP G. Kranti Kumar. A 25-member rescue team from Mahuadanr, 4km from Puro, reached within 10 minutes and brought the scribe and the unfortunate couple to the police station.
Puro, a Christian-dominated village of around 60 households, is an unlikely venue for this shocker of an atrocity. It is better off than most Jharkhand villages, as it boasts a good school and the nearby St Xavier’s College, has power, roads and an educated population of farmers, government employees and army men. Belgian Jesuits have been active in the region since a century. The village grows paddy and vegetables that are sold in Daltonganj, Latehar, Netarhat and Gumla.
Lakra and his wife are some of Puro’s poorest residents On the evening of July 8, villagers dragged the husband-wife duo out from their home and blamed them for deaths of cows, buffaloes and goats in June. When they denied the charges, villagers threatened to kill them and forced them to lick their faeces and urine.
The reporter whose intervention unearthed the incident ascribed the livestock deaths to water scarcity and expressed surprise at the “blind belief.” “Almost everyone in Puro is matriculate. It is surprising that educated people accused an elderly couple of practising black magic to kill livestock and conspired to kill them. If I hadn’t somehow managed to send an SMS to the Latehar SP today, I don’t know what would have happened. I am lucky that there was network and that he acted so promptly,” said the reporter over phone.
“On receiving the SMS, I sent the team security force from Mahuadanr to Puro from where our men rescued the victims,” Kumar told The Telegraph. “An FIR has been lodged against 11 persons,” he added.