| Chintamani Devi (centre) with family members at her residence at Kamalnagar Colony in Bhagalpur on Sunday. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Chintamani Devi, wife of Pandit Dinesh Chandra Jha, has not lost hope. She still puts vermilion on her forehead hoping her husband would come back after he went missing last year during the Kedarnath tragedy in Uttarakhand.
Panditji was the priest of Ashwini Kumar Choubey, now the Buxar MP. But at the small house of Panditji at Kamalnagar Colony, the scenario is different, as most family members have lost all hopes. They allege government failure in searching for Panditji and lambasted Choubey, for taking no effort to trace Panditji.
“My husband has been associated with Choubey for the past 17 or 18 years and used to conduct all religious rituals. He went to Patna on June 11, 2013, after Choubey (cabinet minister at that time) called him over phone to accompany his family members to Dev Bhumi to conduct rituals. He went to Kedarnath with Choubey. The MP and his family members escaped unhurt but my husband and others remained traceless since,” Chintamani said.
During last year’s Kedarnath tragedy, Choubey, along with his entire family, miraculously returned from the jaws of death but his sister-in law, her husband, three security men (all Bihar police personnel), the MP’s personal secretary and Panditji reportedly died in the tragedy. The bodies of personal secretary Raman Tiwary and Panditji were not found.
Panditji’s younger son, Manoj Kumar Jha, who conducts puja and rituals like his father, narrated how the family members tried their level best to trace Panditji at different places in Uttarakhand but nothing happened. “We did not have any proper co-operation from government machineries there and we had to face tremendous difficulties during our stay there. Choubeyji, too, ignored our plight and did not help us,” he alleged. “After one-and-a-half months of the incident, Choubeyji came to our house and assured us. But since then, he does not receive our calls. Since he called my father and asked him to accompany his family, he should take care of us after the tragic incident,” alleged Diwakar Chandra Jha, the elder son of Panditji.
Manoj said: “We have been going through tough times for the past one year. Many victims’ families in that incident have already received compensation of Rs 5.5 lakh from the government but we still do not know whether my father is alive or dead.” Choubey was not available for comment but sources from his family said death certificates of the MP’s sister-in-law and her husband were not yet received. Sources said Choubey’s son Arijit recently went to Dehradun to get the death certificates.
Sources added that the death certificates of Choubey’s official bodyguards, Ajay Kumar Mishra, Phoolan Ojha and Devendra Prasad Singh, were obtained. Only the family members of Ajay and Phoolan have received compensation of Rs 3.5 lakh only from the Centre and the Uttarakhand government.