Bokaro, March 21: JMM MLA and Giridih MP hopeful Jagannath Mahto cycled 50km from Dumri to Bokaro district collectorate today to file his nomination papers and get a hero’s welcome from chief minister Hemant Soren, barely hours after his name cropped up in a damning FIR at Nawadih, 55km away.
Relatives of Santosh Pandey (27), who was beaten to death on orders of a kangaroo court for daring to marry for love, have named the MLA in their FIR filed yesterday night at 9.50pm at Nawadih thana. They stated the MLA was responsible for the thrashing and was present when it happened.
Rushing to his defence today, chief minister Hemant dismissed these “allegations” as a “very common occurrence against a political figure” during elections.
“This has been done to tarnish the JMM candidate’s image. On the day and time Santosh was being beaten, the Dumri MLA was in Bokaro. How can he be named in the FIR?” Hemant told The Telegraph at Chira Chas farmhouse, Bokaro, this afternoon, after he met the MLA.
“The unfortunate death of Santosh Pandey was a matter related to a love affair. At the time of the beating Mahto was at Bokaro steel city and even attended a meeting at Bokaro DC’s office. Still, his name is being tagged in the murder,” Hemant said.
“Vested interests are targeting him as he is popular and is sure to win the Giridih seat for the JMM and UPA,” the chief minister added.
For the record, the Giridih face-off this time will be between BJP sitting MP Ravindra Pandey and JMM MLA and first-time MP hopeful Jagannath Mahto.
Hemant’s defence contradicts the FIR of Santosh’s brother Vikas and two others. It reads: “Dumri vidhayak Jagannath Mahto dwara, apne awas ke samne, Shiv mandir parisar mein mere bhai Santosh Pandey ko peetne ka aadesh diya gaya (Dumri MLA Jagannath Mahto, in front of his house and on the precincts of the Shiv temple, ordered my brother to be beaten up)….Is dauran vidhayak Jagannath Mahto upasthit thhe (During the beating, the MLA was present).”
The MLA and his brother Baidyanath Mahto apart, the FIR names seven others responsible for the death of the Brahmin youth. They are Jitendra Puri, Nemi Puri, Ganesh Puri, Kailash Puri, Kewal Mahto, Meghlal Puri and Suraj Puri.
As the MLA filed poll papers to the sound of applause in Bokaro, at adjoining Chandrapura township, the body of Santosh lay at DVC hospital and hundreds shouted slogans demanding the immediate arrest of the MLA and his brother Baidyanath.
The youth was cremated later this evening.
While the presence of Jagannath Mahto needs to be proved, the MLA himself said his black SUV had been used to drive an injured Santosh to the hospital.
Today, Nawadih (Bokaro) police arrested two named in the FIR, Nemi Puri and Ganesh Puri.
Bokaro SP Jitendra Singh said they had constituted a high-level probe team. “We will take into account every detail, including Santosh’s dying declaration, who convened the kangaroo court, person or persons who ordered the beating and those who carried out the act and under what circumstances the MLA’s vehicle was used to ferry the injured youth to the DVC hospital,” he said.
The SP said they had with them the video footage where Santosh stated the MLA and his brother were behind his beating.