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'Lover' murder after panchayat insult

Ranchi: Fifteen persons, including the main accused in the Chatra Dalit girl's alleged rape and murder, as well as the woman mukhiya who ordered cash penalty and 100 sit-ups for the accused on Friday, were arrested on Saturday.

Accused Dhanu Bhuiyan, 20, was arrested from Hazaribagh's Chouparan area on Saturday evening.

Bokaro IG Shambhu Thakur said what emerged from the probe was that the 16-year-old girl from the Ravidas cobbler community and accused Dhanu, 20, also a Dalit but perceived to be socially higher, were having an affair, but the boy allegedly burnt her alive when he was insulted at Friday's panchayat after their Thursday night rendezvous was discovered by the girl's family.

At the panchayat, the girl and boy admitted to be in love, but mukhiya Sunita Devi alias Tileshwari Devi, heading the panchayat, ordered Dhanu to do 100 sit-ups and pay Rs 50,000 as penalty at a kangaroo court. Dhanu refused to obey, leading to an altercation between the Ravidas and Bhuiyan groups.

Finally, Dhanu allegedly poured kerosene on the girl and lit a match at her village home in Raja Kendua, Koni panchayat of Itkhori block, 35km from district headquarters and 150km from Ranchi.

After her arrest on Saturday, Sunita claimed before the local media that when the alleged rape came to the fore on Friday, she had called up Itkhori OC Ashok Choubey under whose jurisdiction Koni panchayat falls.

Choubey, Sunita claimed, told her he was going to Chatra town and in the meantime she should "peacefully settle the matter" without getting into the specifics of how she should handle the matter. Sunita had then proceeded to award 100 sit-ups and cash penalty to the accused. OC Choubey could not be contacted independently to verify these allegations.

Referring to the mukhiya's arrest, Chatra DC Jitendra Kumar Singh said taking the law in their own hands could not be tolerated. "The law must take its own course," he said.

So far, 20 persons have been named accused in the FIR, 12 of whom named by the father of the girl. Of them 15 have been arrested.

Camping in the village with CID team and forensics experts, Thakur said the girl's post-mortem report would confirm if she was sexually violated by one person or more. Chatra DC Singh said that Rs 1 lakh as compensation was given to the bereaved family.

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