|A file picture of Shrikant and (above) Om Prakash at RIMS, Ranchi, on Tuesday. (Hardeep Singh)
A 37-year-old medical representative, who was battered with rods for rescuing a mother of two from a gang of drunken revellers in Ranchi, succumbed to head injuries in hospital late on Tuesday night.
Shrikant Bhardwaj was a resident of Sahajanand Nagar near Joda Talab in Bariatu. He is survived by his wife and two young sons.
According to an eyewitness, trouble started around 5pm on Tuesday. A group of five men, picnicking near the premises of Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), barged into a neighbourhood house and asked for water. The homemaker obliged them. However, they returned soon again — this time scaling her boundary wall — and asked for more water.
“The lady was alone at home with her two children, who must have been below six years old. She was alarmed at the intrusion, but calmly refused to oblige them a second time, saying she had not stored enough water for distribution. At this, one of the men slapped her. Soon, the others started dragging her out. She screamed for help,” said Om Prakash Pandey, who along with Shrikant and two others rushed to help.
While the medical representative was in the area scouting for a plot of land, Om Prakash — employed with a private finance company — and the others, Mrityunjay Kumar and Suraj Singh, live in the neighbourhood.
“As soon as we interfered, the gang fled. We thought the matter had ended there. But, within 15 minutes they returned with a mob armed with iron rods, sticks and stones. We tried to escape, but could not. Shrikant tried to hide in a bush, but was dragged out and bludgeoned,” Om Prakash, who too sustained injuries, said from his RIMS bed.
Hospital sources said Shrikant died around 11pm.
Neighbours said the woman’s husband was a night guard at State Bank of India and was not home when the incident took place. Local residents also said that if police reached the spot on time, the clash could have been averted.
“When the picnickers created trouble for the first time, Bariatu police were informed. But they took 40 minutes to reach here though the police station is barely a kilometre away,” said Chandra Bhusan Tiwary, who is attending to Om Prakash at RIMS.
Officer in charge of Bariatu police station Faguni Paswan, who had earlier ruled out that eve-teasing had spurred the clash, on Wednesday confirmed that an FIR had been registered against one Lalu and 100 other unidentified people based on the statement of the 29-year-old woman.
“The accused have been charged under Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 354 (assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 427 (mischief) and 448 (trespassing) of the IPC. Two persons have been detained and we hope the main culprit will be behind bars soon,” he said.
The Ranchi Mahanagar Congress Committee has, meanwhile, demanded safety of women in the capital. President Surendra Singh also condoled the death of Shrikant Bhardwaj and demanded compensation for his family.
Assembly Speaker C.P. Singh too expressed his concern over the incident, which he said could have been averted if police were proactive.
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