A Hindu woman who saved lives of 10 Muslims in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district during the recent clashes in which five people died is being hailed as a hero.
Shail Devi, a widow in her early 50s, risking her own life, gave shelter to her Muslim neighbours when a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked Azizpur Bahilwara village after a 20-year-old Hindu boy was found dead on Sunday.
He was allegedly abducted and killed over his love affair with a Muslim girl.
"I provided shelter to my Muslim neighbours to save their lives because the mob could have killed them," Shail said Wednesday morning.
"I was standing before my house around early noon when a few people came running asking me to shelter them. I took them in and locked them from outside apprehending something foul," she said.
"Later, a group of people, equipped with traditional weapons approached me and asked me to handover the people who were inside. I lied to them. But they threatened me with elimination should they find out that I had shielded them".
"Me and my daughters were afraid . But that did not deter me. We wanted to save those lives. We are happy, that we never gave up or expressed their fear", she said.
"She has proved again that humanity is still alive, we are proud of her," Arvind Kumar, a villager, said.
Ash Mohammad, a man in his 60s, who was one of the ten Muslims whose lives were saved by Shail, told IANS that she is like 'farishta' (angel) to them.
"Shail was like god-sent angel to us...," Mohammad said.
Mohammad admitted that all of them could have been killed if Shail had not given shelter to them.
Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who visited the village Wednesday, met Shail. He lauded her role and compared her with legendary Rani Lakshmibai.
Manjhi handed over a cheque of Rs 51,000 to Shail Devi (59) and Rs 20,000 each to her two daughters for showing exemplary courage against all odds and saving the lives of her neighbours.
Honouring the trio, Manjhi said "Shail is modern day Lakshmibai. She and her daughters have showed the way not only to the people of the area, but also to all people fighting to save humanity".
"I salute their effort. They have showed that humanity is still alive. I have no words to express my deep sense of gratitude to them. They saved people fleeing death at great risk to their own lives", he said.
Blessing Shail's daughters, Anita (14) and Sangeeta (13), both students of Azizpur government middle school, Manjhi advised them to complete their studies and work to empower people around them. "The money which I am giving you is meant to complete your studies. Prepare yourself to serve the people", the CM added.
"She is an example of communal harmony. People should take lesson from her and she would inspire others to follow her," Manjhi praised her.
Manjhi also announced assistance of Rs 20,000 each to her two unmarried daughters under a welfare scheme.
Earlier, Bihar information technology minister Shahid Ali Khan also praised Shail for saving the lives of her Muslim neighbours.
"I promised her help by the state government, and a reward for her soon," said Khan, who visited the village on Tuesday.
A First Information Report (FIR) was registered Monday against 2,000 unidentified people and 12 named accused who were part of the mob that attacked the villagers from a particular community, the official added.
Police have already arrested 14 people in this connection.
Additional director general of police Gupteshwar Pandey submitted an inquiry report on the incident Tuesday to the state government.
Soon after the incident, Manjhi asked Pandey and state home secretary Sudhir Kumar to conduct a probe and report to him.
Four persons were charred to death during the violent clash in Azizpur village under Saraiya police, some 35 kms from the district headquarters. More than ten houses and 18 vehicles were also set afire in the incident, which was sparked off following the recovery the body of a teenager, who had been abducted earlier.