The heroic actions of Shail Devi reminds us that we must not essentialize any community and that even at the darkest moments there are beacons of light who are not willing to sacrifice their humanity or values.
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 boyâ€™s body was found on Sunday.
He was allegedly abducted and killed over his love affair with a Muslim girl.
â€œI provided shelter to my Muslim neighbours to save their lives because the mob could have killed them,â€? Shail said on Wednesday.
Shail, a poor woman fighting for her survival like many others in this village, said 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 fisherman.
â€œI 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,â€? she said.
â€œShe has proved again that humanity is still alive, we are proud of her,â€? Arvind Kumar, a villager, said.
Ash Mohammad, a man in his 60s, who was one of the 10 Muslims whose lives were saved by Shail, said that she is like an â€˜angelâ€™ to them.
â€œShail was like god-sent angel to usâ€¦,â€? 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.
â€œI was so frightened that I along with my two daughters and a son on Monday took shelter in Mohammadâ€™s house but after district administration persuaded, I returned to my home,â€? she said.
Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who visited the village on Wednesday, met Shail. He lauded her role and compared her with legendary Rani Lakshmibai.
Manjhi also announced a cash reward of Rs51,000 for her.