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Fury over body mystery
- Madhubani turns battlefield over missing student

Patna, Oct. 12: The administration’s refusal to hand over a body purported to be that of a student who went missing over a month ago today touched off a wave of violence in Madhubani, with enraged residents fighting a pitched battle with police and the force retaliating by opening fire to disperse the mob.

The residents were protesting against the alleged callous attitude of the Town police in handing over the body they claimed was that of Prashant, a 17-year-old student who went missing from Vivodanand Jha Colony in Madhubani town, 200km northeast of Patna, on September 5.

Prashant, a Class X student of the local Indian Public School, had gone missing around the same time as a girl who studied one class below him in the same institution. The girl, whose name and identity The Telegraph is withholding, is still to be traced. Though the families have refused to confirm, sources in the police said it was likely that the two had eloped.

The family of the girl — her father Jajpati Choudhary is the district programme officer of Madhubani — had filed a case of kidnapping against the boy’s family, leading to the arrest of his grandfather and uncle. Prashant’s father, a farmer, is said to be absconding.

On October 2, the headless body of a boy was found, which Prashant’s family members said was the student’s. However, the police, which carried out two post-mortems, said the age of the dead person was at least 25 years, while Prashant was 17.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar tonight recommended a CBI probe into the alleged abduction of the girl. The government, which has of late faced a flurry of protests from unhappy para-teachers and has been criticised for failing to check crime, swung into action and transferred Madhubani district magistrate Adhesh Titarmare and superintendent of police Saurabh Kumar. Lokesh Kumar Singh and Ranjeet Mishra have been appointed as the new DM and SP of Madhubani respectively.

The swift action came shortly after Titarmare ordered curfew to be clamped on certain areas of Madhubani town.

Trouble erupted around 11 this morning when some students and women joined the relatives of Prashant who have been sitting on a dharna in front of the district magistrate’s office since yesterday demanding that the body be handed over.

Suddenly a section of the crowd attacked the Town police station, threw stones and set it on fire. The protesters also set ablaze at least nine vehicles, including a police patrol car and a Bolero parked on the police station premises. Another group of protesters attacked a police van and set free 22 undertrials before setting the vehicle ablaze.

The mob attacked SP Saurabh Kumar and deputy superintendent of police (headquarters) S. Khalifa, who sustained head injuries. The official vehicle of deputy superintendent of police (Sadar) Sanjay Bharti was also torched.

Soochana Bhavan, offices of the DSO (Sadar) and inspector of police also bore the ire of the protesters. At least 20 vehicles parked on the collectorate premises besides an anti-riot vehicle and a fire tender were damaged. The road leading to the collectorate from RK College bore testimony to the extent of damage caused by the rampaging crowd.

Madhubani sub-divisional officer (Sadar) Arun Kumar Jha said three persons sufferred bullet injuries when the police opened fire to disperse the mob.

Those injured in the police firing have been identified as Raja Yadav (18), Lalbabu Yadav (27) and Pravin Kumar (21).

Saurabh Kumar, the outgoing SP, had earlier told The Telegraph that the police preserved the body after post-mortem was conducted for the second time under the supervision of a medical board, which claimed the deceased was older than Prashant.

“The medical board suggested that the deceased was over 25 years of age while Prashant was only 17-years-old. This is the reason the body was not handed over to the family,” he said.

Principal secretary, home, Amir Subhani said divisional commissioner of Darbhanga, Vandana Kinni, and inspector-general of police (Darbhanga zone) R.K. Mishra have been asked to inquire into the circumstances leading to the police firing.