Three persons of a Dalit family, including a woman, were shot dead by their neighbours in Madhya Pradesh’s Damoh district on Tuesday, while another member of the family was injured and was undergoing treatment at a government hospital in the district, police said.
A quarrel broke out between neighbours — the Patel and Ahriwar families — over an alleged molestation, which led to the crime in Deoran village in Damoh.
During preliminary investigation, police found that the tension broke out on Monday evening when Jagdish Patel, the main accused, and his wife alleged that his neighbour Manak Ahirwar molested her. While this was brought under control, Patel, along with his other male members of the family, barged into the Ahirwars’ house and opened indiscriminate fire on them.
Manak Ahirwar, his father Ghamandi Ahirwar, 60, and his mother Rajpyari, 58, died on spot, while one of his brothers Mahesh Ahirwar has been injured and admitted to Damoh district hospital, police said.
After the incident, the entire Patel family went missing from their home, but police claimed to have arrested Jagdish Patel.
“Jagdish has alleged that one of the victims – Manak Lal Ahirwar, 30, allegedly sexually harassed his wife and that was the cause of the crime,” Damoh’s Superintendent of Police, D.R. Teniwar said.
Sources told IANS that Jagdish Patel, said to be a village strongman, and he often used to indulge into fights with people. Sources also claimed that there has been a dispute between Ahirwar and Patel families over a plot of land.
Responding to the land dispute issue, the SP said: “A team of district revenue officials are verifying the facts regarding land dispute. We can not say much at this stage on the land dispute issue, we are investigating the matter.”
Teniwar said police have launched a manhunt for six other accused – all members of Jagdish Patel’s family. Apart from murder and assault charges, a case under SC/ST Atrocities Act has also been registered. “Main accused Jagdeesh Patel, has been arrested and we have constituted different teams to find out the other accused soon,” he said.
Later, the family members and others from the Ahirwar community staged a demonstration at Damoh with the bodies of the victims. They demanded stern action against the guilty, including use of bulldozers to raze their “illegal” property.
The SP said that he talked to the agitators and assured them that the police and administration were handling the matter with due seriousness and all possible steps to punish the guilty would be taken, after which the demonstration was called off.
The incident has sparked a political controversy in the state as the opposition Congress alleged that law and order situation in the state is deteriorating day by day. State Congress chief and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath said that the incident was very unfortunate and demanded a high-level probe.
“There should be strict action on the guilty following the high-level probe. Government should provide all possible aid to the family and provide full security to other members,” he said.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati has also condemned the incident and targeted the state government over the law and order situation.
“This incident, reminiscent of the dark ages, exposes not only the law and order situation under the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh, but also the failure of the government to provide security to the poor, Dalits, tribal and women. There should not be any soft dealing with the criminals. The BSP demands strict action,” she tweeted.
The village where the incident occured falls under Patharia assembly constituency and the sitting MLA, Rambai Govind Singh is from the BSP. IANS tried to speak to him but he was not reachable.
Ajay Kumar Tandon, a Congress MLA from Damoh district, however, said that the incident came as a shock for the entire district.
“People of a family barged into one’s house and opened fire at them killing three. This shows that people have no fear of police here in Damoh. Question arrise that was the Patel family carrying guns at his home? Today’s incident was the failure of the law and order situation of the state,” Tandon told IANS over phone.