Azizpur: A Hindu woman who saved lives of 10 Muslims in this village in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district during the recent clashes in which five people died is being hailed as a hero, officials said.
Shail Devi, a frail 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's body was found 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.
Shail, a poor woman fighting for her survival like many others in this village, told IANS that she along with her two daughters stood guard outside her house when a mob was targeting Muslims in the village. She told them that it was a house of a 'Mallah' (fisherman).
"I lied to rioters that I had not given shelter to Muslims in my house. Though some people tried to enter my house but I stopped them and they returned," she said.
Shail, widow of late Jaglal Sahni, has become a household name in the village and neighbouring villages for her rare example of communal harmony.
"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.
A day after she saved lives of her Muslim neighbours, some Hindu villagers warned her that she may be targeted by some people of the mob for doing it, Shail said.
"I was so frightened that I along with my two daughters and a son Monday took shelter in Mohammad's house but after district administration persuaded, I returned to my home," she said.
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 also announced a cash reward of Rs 51,000 for her.
"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 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.
The BJP Tuesday demanded a judicial probe into the killing of four people and arson in a village that later turned into a communal clash in Bihar.