5 dead girls, and a shroud of silence

Patna caseGrandmother Motiraj Devi (left), at their home; (below) mudhouse built by the girls for Diwali

A strange and uneasy silence hangs over the large single-storey pucca house in Sonas village under Khijarsarai police station in Gaya. Five girls of the house, all minors, were shot dead on the night of December 4-5 as they slept here, in separate rooms. There are few credible answers as to why the girls were alone, sleeping separately, or killed — despite the police naming the father of two of the girls as an accused — and none whatsoever that is coming from the house that has shut its doors to shocked outsiders.

The two other brothers, who also lost daughters in the attack, fend off queries. Bharat Bhushan Singh, the middle brother, hushes his father as he gestures angrily to convey something. The grandfather of the girls, retired Armyman Pavitra Narain Singh, is hard of hearing and walks with the help of a stick. Neighbours say the 75-year-old is in a state of shock. "He loved his granddaughters very much and would often get them toffees," said one neighbour who refused to be identified.

A week after the killings, the shared house with three separate kitchens for the three families is undergoing a thorough cleaning. The five other children of the house, all boys, go about their routines in normal course. The women stay inside, not allowed to meet or talk to anybody.

Julie (16), Manisha (15), Sweety (14), Reshma (11) and Amisha (8) were shot in the same manner, in the head. According to police, Pavitra's youngest son Bipin Singh killed them to pin the blame on fellow villagers Navin Singh and Anant Singh, with whom he had a land dispute. They also claim that the prospect of the heavy wedding expenses likely in the case of own daughters, Manisha and Amisha, also prompted him.

Officials say Bharat and eldest brother Shashi have confessed that Bipin had told them he would "do something that would send Navin and Ananth to the gallows", and claimed that Bipin didn't tell them how exactly he would do this. Police haven't yet given Bharat and Shashi a clean chit. Of the three other girls killed, while Julie was the daughter of Shashi, Bharat was the father of Sweety and Reshma. Bipin is on the run. Now the only surviving daughter among the three brothers is Shashi's daughter Priyanka, who got married last year.

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