| Prashant Jha |
Patna, Oct. 15: The missing teenaged boy from Madhubani, whose purported death sparked off a wave of violence in the north Bihar district, surfaced today in New Delhi along with his girlfriend whose family was accused by residents of hatching a plot to get rid of the youth.
The boy, Prashant Jha (17), and the girl were recovered from Mehrauli in New Delhi on a day the Opposition had called a bandh in Bihar over the violence in Madhubani which left at least two persons dead over the past three days.
The development came hours after chief minister Nitish Kumar blamed his administration for its “failure” to handle the situation arising out of the boy’s disappearance.
“Around 4pm, I got a call from Jarnail Singh, inspector of Mehrauli police station, about the recovery of a 17-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl hailing from Arer locality of Madhubani,” director-general of police (DGP) Abhayanand said. “I subsequently spoke to Prashant and the girl and reached the conclusion that they were the same boy and girl missing from Madhubani.”
The saga is just another instance of the rising trend among India’s increasingly impatient public to shoot the subject first. Political administrators often find themselves under pressure given the hype in the media and on social networking sites and take knee-jerk decisions that boomerang.
The violence in Madhubani began on Friday following the refusal of the district police to hand over the headless body of a male which Prashant’s relatives claimed was that of the student, who had been missing along with the girl since September 7. Local people went on the rampage, setting ablaze police vehicles, government property and torched parts of a police station. The police retaliated by opening fire on the mob, leaving at least two dead.
The government, already under pressure for rising crime in the state, swiftly replaced top officers — inspector-general (Darbhanga zone) R.K. Mishra and Madhubani’s district magistrate and superintendent of police, Adesh Titarmare and Saurabh Kumar — in one stroke, set up a judicial inquiry into the police firing and recommended a CBI probe into the disappearance of the missing teenagers. The missing girl’s father, a district government official, was also transferred out.
The police had said two post-mortems carried out on the body had established that the age of the male was at least 25 years whereas Prashant is only 17. The police also said they were readying to carry out a DNA test of the body. But the residents would have none of it.
The Opposition, sniffing a chance to get back at Nitish’s claim of “sushasan (good governance)”, called a Bihar bandh today. Senior leaders, including RJD boss Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, hit the streets, throwing traffic out of gear for some time in Patna, blocked highways and railway tracks.
Even the chief minister, who has in the past refrained from jumping the gun on such issues, was unusually harsh on his own administration, saying the officials were to blame.
DGP Abhayanand said that in his entire career as a policeman, he hadn’t encountered such a case.
“I have never encountered such an episode in my long career as a police officer,” DGP Abhayanand said, before detailing the saga of the missing youths. In the course of investigation, the police had tracked the mobile phone of Prashant and found that he had stopped at Muzaffarpur, where he had sold his handset to a local vendor. “The vendor informed the police that he had bought the mobile phone from Prashant for Rs 800. I asked Prashant if he had sold his mobile phone to the vendor. Prashant admitted that he had, suggesting conclusively that he was the same boy,” the DGP said. “Prashant and the girl were admittedly in love with each other and had eloped.”
According to Abhayanand, the boy and girl left Madhubani on September 7 and reached Muzaffarpur. From Muzaffarpur they went to Ranchi. From Ranchi, they went to Jammu before finally reaching Mehrauli.
There, a readymade garments shop owner hailing from Bihar spotted the two and identified the boy from a picture published in a vernacular daily. He then informed the local police which picked up the duo.
“Ant bhala to sab bhala (All’s well that ends well),” Nitish said on receiving news of the recovery of the couple.
Sociologists said this trend among people to make allegations without waiting for a trial was dangerous.
“Rampant corruption and price rise are the twin factors which have led to accumulation of deep-seated anger in people. Whenever they get a chance to vent this anger or are instigated by some people on such issues, it is manifested in Madhubani-like incidents,” said sociologist Hetukar Jha.