Patna: A 15-year-old Dalit boy was burnt to death in Bihar after his goat strayed into the paddy field of an upper caste villager in a latest such episode involving attacks on the downtrodden.
The incident took place at Mohanpur village in Rohtas district, around 200km south-west of the Bihar capital of Patna, on Wednesday evening.
Police said Sai Ram was grazing his goat in the field on Wednesday when the animal sneaked into the field owned by one Sanjay Singh alias Kulkul Singh and grazed on standing crops there, leading to an altercation between the two.
Reports said the victim tried fleeing the scene to escape being attacked by Singh, but the latter chased him and caught up with the boy in his house before beating him up. The accused then proceeded to douse the boy in kerosene and set him on fire.
By the time the villagers rushed to save the screaming boy, he had already suffered 90 per cent burns. He was immediately rushed to the local government hospital, but succumbed to his injuries.
“He [the victim] was tortured to death. First, he was beaten up badly and then set on fire,” Jiut Ram, the boy’s father, told police.
The accused has been arrested.
Meanwhile, Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi ordered for quick trial in the case and announced compensation for the victim’s family.
“The case will be put on speed trial,” the he told media.
In the past few weeks there have been close to half a dozen attacks on Dalits from various parts of the state.
Last week, five dalit girls had been allegedly gang-raped by upper caste men in Bihar, setting off strong protests across the state. The girls, all aged between 16 and 23, had gone to the nearby Kurmuri village in Bhojpur district, to sell scrap to a local shop owned by a former Ranvir Sena area commander, when they were locked up in the shop and gang-raped on Wednesday night.
Before that, more than 250 Maha-dalit families had been forced to flee their village in Gaya district with their livestock and other belongings on September 27 after the upper caste strongmen shot dead a Dalit youth for daring to file nomination papers for elections in the primary agriculture cooperative society (PACS). The panicked families retuned home only after assurances by the local administration and state government.
Early this month, around 150 Maha-dalit families fled their homes in Nawada district and took shelter in a government school when their houses were ransacked and set on fire by upper caste villagers. Tension broke out after some influential people under the influence encroached into the marriage function of a dalit and began sexually harassing dalit girls leading to protests by dalits.
If that were not enough, Manjhi, said he himself had been a victim of bias against maha-dalits, claiming that a temple in Madhubani district was washed and purified soon after his visit a couple of months back. He also ordered a high-level investigation into the case.