Barh, Oct. 20: Rows of tonsured men in white dhoties relished a special bhoj of dal, roti and sweets at Mangarchowk village, 10 km from this railway town, even as an old priest fed ghee to the yagna flames and chanted shlokas to exorcise evil spirits.
The ceremony bore the stamp of a shradh, but the guests denied there were any deaths in the village in recent times. They seemed wary of prying outsiders and grilled reporters about their purpose of visit.
In a sinister show of caste solidarity, the villagers were hiding the death of a teenager, allegedly at the hands of her mother.
Mintu Kumari, 16, died on October 7 after she was allegedly offered poisoned food by her mother. She tossed about in pain for hours, but no help came her way. She finally retched and retched, till she died. Her sin: she was in love with a 20-year-old youth in the village.
Residents of Mangarchowk became willing partners in the crime to protect the village from “an awful shame”. They had branded Mintu a girl of loose morals and after her mother allegedly killer her, they kept the incident a secret.
After 13 days when the entire village decided to observe the last rituals so that no evil spirit of the “killed daughter” could hunt them, there was a mood of penance but there was hardly any sign of bereavement or sorrow on their faces. As if this is the most normal thing to happen, the villagers were “enjoying” dal, roti and sweets. The only unhappy person however is Anadi Mahato, a chowkidar in the village.
For it is he who lodged an FIR with the Pandarak police station narrating the details of the “murder” of the teenager, how it was done, who were involved and why it was done.
“The village still lives in the century-old social mores. When 16-year-old Mintu Kumari fell in love with one of the village lads, it became a scandal and the girl was consumed by it,” he said.
According to his FIR, Mintu Kumari, daughter of Ramprasad Yadav, became pregnant in the course of her torrid affair with her paramour Prakash, who happened to be from the same village, dominated mostly by Yadavs.
She was taken to Delhi where her father worked. She was aborted there and brought back. However, even after her return, she refused to abandon her boyfriend. This reportedly angered the villagers and her family. “The locals were insisting on sending her out of the village. It was with a sense of disgust that her mother decided to kill her,” said Ramesh Mishra, of the neighbouring Dayalchowk village.
On the night of October 7, the girl was made to eat poisoned food, Mahato said. After she died, the body was cremated without a post-mortem. When the body was half burnt, it was dumped in the Ganga.
After the FIR was filed, policemen led by Arvind Kumar visited the village, but found Mintu’s house locked.
“There was not a single villager to testify about the killing. They spoke in one voice about their ignorance. But there were some clues made available by the neighbouring village. We are looking into them,” said D.K. Burma, officer-in-charge of Pandarak police station. He said the villagers were shielding the mother in a strange show of caste solidarity.
Strangely, the man who Mintu was allegedly in love with is unscathed in the entire episode. There was no sense of shame or social taboo over his involvement and he is roaming free in the village.
“Occasionally, we get strange, unidentified calls urging us to investigate the case. The caller may be the lovelorn young man who wants justice but unable to speak out for fear of village elders,” said an officer of Pandarak police station.