New Delhi/Madhubani, Oct. 16: As Nitish Kumar sounded a warning on the "virus of impatience" that has gripped society, those on the offensive over the Madhubani mystery until yesterday afternoon scurried for cover as news of the missing couple's odyssey of love unfolded.
Relieved at the recovery of 17-year-old student Prashant Jha, whose presumed death touched off an orgy of violence in the north Bihar district, the chief minister today went on the offensive against those who enforced a bandh in the state yesterday over the issue. Prashant and his 16-year-old girlfriend were found at Mehrauli in New Delhi on Monday, a little over a month after they chose to run away from their homes on September 7.
The three-day wave of violence left at least two persons dead in police firing triggered by rumours that a headless body found in the district was that of the missing student's.
"Like the virus of cold, some people are gripped with the virus of impatience and are looking for an opportunity to dislodge my government. They will not succeed as the government enjoys the faith of the people," Nitish said in an apparent dig at Lalu Prasad. The RJD chief, who had hit the streets yesterday over the issue, did not comment today.
Even Nitish appeared to have fallen victim to the rising trend of popular hysteria fuelled by hearsay and hyped on social networking sites, and that of "street justice". The chief minister yesterday blamed the administration for its "failure" to control the situation in Madhubani and his cabinet ordered a judicial probe into the police firing.
The couple from Madhubani, both students of Indian Public School in Madhubani, told Delhi police during interrogation on Monday that they had sold a gold chain and mobile phone to sustain themselves as they hopped from city to city.
"They kept saying they loved each other and wanted to get married. In fact it was the girl who pressured Prashant to move to a different city and get married as their families would not agree to their wedding at this age," said Arvind Singh, an official at Mehrauli police station in Delhi, where the couple were interrogated.
The couple, who were sent to juvenile homes, are likely to be handed over to a Bihar police team tomorrow.
"They told us that they first went to Muzaffarpur after leaving home on September 7 where Prashant sold his mobile phone while the girl sold her gold chain. This fetched them about Rs 40,000. Then they went to Ranchi before leaving for Jammu. From Jammu they moved to Darjeeling in Bengal and rented a room. However, as they started running out of money, they thought of coming to Delhi and boarded the Brahmaputra Mail," Singh said.
Madhubani's residents too are on the defensive, saying they were victims of rumours that the student had been killed. "The administration tried to persuade the people but we refused to listen," said town resident Ramesh Jha.
Prashant's parents, who were at the forefront of the demand that the "body" be handed over, have now gone missing. The girl's family, which was until yesterday the target of people's fury, has now gone on the offensive.
"I am already facing charges regarding Prashant's murder. I hope his family members will now admit the truth," said the girl's father Jagpati Chaudhary.