Lal Singh Bawri, 50, was forced by his Bawri community elders to hold a red-hot iron rod in his hand to prove his innocence in a murder case on Thursday at Sokdi village in Mandsaur district, 400 km from Bhopal.
Bawri had to undergo the agni-pariksha, as he was accused with three others of killing Ghanshyam, who is from his own community, about a fortnight ago.
Bawri and his three accomplices were on the run since. Fearing that people of his own community might try to kill him for revenge, Bawri approached the elders of the community.
The trial by fire was conducted in front of hundreds of villagers. Bawri was made to hold a hot iron rod and walk up to a distance to prove that he was not guilty. And villagers claimed that Bawri had managed to remain unharmed.
The council of elders absolved him of the charge. But the police, who were watching the trial, without any interference until then, arrested him later for the murder.
Chief of the local police station at Piplaiya Pawan Singhal told Hindustan Times that they were tipped off about Bawri's presence at the Panchayat. "One of his accomplices was arrested on January 19, but two others are still at large," he said.
Describing Bawri as a criminal, Singhal said an altercation over sharing the booty from a robbery led to Ghanshyam's murder.
On how Bawri managed to pass the test, he said, "He used a thick padding of leaves on his palm to protect himself. The whole thing was a nautanki (a sham)."