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Avoid Mahnar-Hajipur stretch after dark

- Residents keep vigil for thieves, attack those who fail to prove identity with spears, swords & lathis

Think twice before crossing a five-km stretch between Mahnar and Hajipur in Vaishali district after sunset.

Just last week, six persons, including four labourers from Bokaro in Jharkhand, were brutally attacked. Two others were residents of Bidupur and Dehpur in Vaishali district.

The six persons, travelling in a pick-up van, were stopped near Sultanpur village, about 3km from Mahnar sub-divisional headquarters. When they failed to show their identity proof, residents attacked them with spears, swords and lathis. The victims were admitted to Hajipur sadar hospital after Desari police rushed to the spot the next morning. “Most victims were not in a condition to make a statement,” Mahnar circle inspector Sunil Mishra had said.

The victims later said they were on their way to Bidupur to meet a contractor who supplies labourers outside the state. The police were verifying the victims’ antecedents.

Earlier, Ratnesh Kumar Singh, a resident of Mohiuddin Nagar in Samastipur district, was brutally assaulted when he failed to produce his identity proof. His motorcycle was badly damaged. “The people, armed with traditional weapons, were not ready to hear I was meeting relatives in Chakiyaz,” Ratnesh said.

Over a dozen villages, like Sultanpur, Chakiyaz, Kumharkol, Pohiar and Morabbatpur under Mahnar sub-divisional are vulnerable to burglaries and theft. Not a single day passes without an incident. So, residents of around half a dozen villages around Mahnar, 45 km northeast of Patna, are keeping night vigil. These vigilantes often intercept strangers at night and ask for identity proof. Those failing to show the same are caught and brutally assaulted with traditional weapons. There is even the fear of falling prey to mob fury and getting lynched.

Desari police station house officer Naveen Kumar confirmed residents formed a gram raksha dal (village level protection committee) a month ago. But he feigned ignorance about assaults on passers-by.

“The idea is to prevent crime and not harass passers-by,” he said. Sahdei SHO Nirbhay Kumar said the same.

Morabbatpur resident Mohammad Noor Qureshi said: “People living in the village’s periphery sleep by turn so that someone is always awake.” Sundari Devi of Chakiyaz, said women were also part of the team. “Each team consists of 10-12 people. They work in shifts. The first shift keeps vigil from 10pm to 3am and the second one till 5am,” she said.

The vigils are a boon for shops dealing in electronic gadgets on Mahnar Bazaar. “Battery-run torches sell like hot cakes and are already out of stock,” said Sanjeet Sah, a shopkeeper.