Punjab: A 16-year old Dalit boy was beaten, then tied to a pillar with a rope and set on fire after being soaked with petrol in Punjab’s Mansa district. A piece of cloth was stuffed inside the teenager’s mouth so that his cries while he was on fire do not attract any attention.

The boy was charred to death within minutes. Police on Monday said the post-mortem report of the deceased boy, identified as Jaspreet Singh, is awaited, while the hunt for the accused is frantically underway.

The brutality of the incident has shocked residents in the area. The gory crime was the handiwork of three persons namely Jashan Singh, Gurjeet Singh and Raju Singh - who planned the murder in cold blood, police said.

The murder of the Dalit boy in the village allegedly has its roots in a feud between neighbourhood families that started because of a wedding about two years ago. According to sources, Jaspreet’s elder brother Kulwinder fell in love with a neighbourhood girl Rojo Kaur, who is the sister of one of the accused Jashan. Kulwinder and Rojo eloped some time ago and married. The two families developed estranged ties ever since.

The eloped couple recently had a baby. Jaspeet celebrated the arrival of his nephew by distributing sweets and claimed that his brother and his wife would return soon. This irked the family of the girl who were averse to any attempt of reconciliation. On Sunday, the three accused called on Jaspreet and managed to convince him to go out with them. Jaspreet was forcibly taken to a deserted and abandoned rice mill in the locality. He was later tied to a pillar and then set ablaze. 

Police have registered a case against three accused, who were also from the Dalit community. Dalit organizations have condemned the horrific crime. However, they maintain that their active role begins in cases where atrocities and crime is committed by upper caste persons against Dalits and not in cases of Dalits against Dalits. They say it is for the police to act against the accused with stringent action.