The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Killed for a stray cow

Gaya, May 19: In Bihar, Dalit women are still not expected to speak to people belonging to the upper-castes, let alone put any question to them.

But 50-year-old Karo Devi made the cardinal mistake yesterday of asking a former landlord if the latter had seen or spotted her missing cow. It was enough to unleash the fury of the former feudal lord.

Enraged at her temerity, the former village headman and his brothers are accused of beating up the woman, who succumbed in the hospital on Saturday morning.

Eyewitnesses from her village, Dhansil, said Karo Devi’s cow went missing yesterday. Frantically looking for her prized possession, the Dalit woman happened to ask the village’s former mukhia, Saroj Singh, if he had spotted it.

Taking offence to the Dalit woman’s himmat (courage) to ask “hamar gaiya dekhla he babu” (My lord, have you seen my cow'), an infuriated Singh and his brothers — Manoj Singh and Raj Kumar — dashed the woman belonging to the Manjhi class, one of the most deprived among Dalits, against a brick lane in the village, about 8 km from here.

Meek interventions by Karo’s husband, Kardhu Manjhi, were too little and too late. The poor man was pushed aside by Singh and his brothers as they thrashed the woman.

Late in the evening, the battered and bruised lady was admitted to Magadh Medical College hospital where she died this morning.

Irate villagers blocked the Gaya-Cherki road today. The blockade was lifted after three hours following assurance by police to nab the Dalit woman’s tormentors.

Gaya SP Amit Jain initially claimed that a dispute over rights of passage between the former village headman and the woman had led to the incident. Later, he said he was “not ruling out” the missing cow issue.

Jain, however, did rule out the possibility of the woman having been raped, as claimed by the agitators this morning. Nobody, he said, had complained so far about the woman’s modesty being outraged.

A murder case has been initiated against Saroj Singh and his brothers. However, the trio are absconding.

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