As Bihar Battles Communal Clashes, Political Feud Flares Up – News18

Reported By: Saurabh Rathore
Edited By: Pathikrit Sen Gupta
Last Updated: April 03, 2023, 18:13 IST
Patna, India
Police personnel attempt to maintain law and order after clashes broke out between two groups during a procession a day after Ram Navami, in Nalanda. (File photo/PTI)
On the evening of March 31, during a Shobha Yatra (procession) after Ram Navami, two groups in Bihar Sharif city in Nalanda district pelted each other with stones. The incident started after a verbal spat near a graveyard in Gagan Diwan area that soon became violent. A mob vandalised shops and vehicles and set some properties on fire. The police personnel were heavily outnumbered.
More than 20,000 Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal supporters were taking part in the procession while hundreds of Muslims were watching them from the other side of the road and terraces of nearby houses. There was a graveyard, a mosque, and a wazukhana (ablution pond) where the clashes took place. Guns were also fired.
On the same day, arson and stone pelting were reported from Gola Bazar in Sasaram city of Rohtas district. The atmosphere was tense in areas such as Gola Bazar, Kadirganj, Mubarakganj, Chaukhandi, and Navratna Bazar, which were closed to the public.
According to local residents, a Ram Navami procession had come to an end in the area. Some people set the pandal on fire and the atmosphere swiftly deteriorated. Two groups started a scuffle even as several vehicles and shops were vandalised as well as torched.
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In the early hours of April 1, there was an explosion in a hut near a mosque in Sasaram. Six people were injured. The administration confirmed that the explosion occurred while bombs were being made.
Another clash broke out in Bihar’s Nalanda district and Sasaram town in Rohtas district on Saturday evening. Several shots were fired by both Hindu and Muslim groups at each other, during which one person died, and at least 10 were injured.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the deceased in the recent violence in Sasaram and Bihar Sharif. The decision was taken during a high-level meeting chaired by the CM.
Union home minister Amit Shah cancelled his public meeting in Sasaram on Sunday following the violence. The cancellation of the event, meant to commemorate the birth anniversary of emperor Ashoka, triggered a verbal battle with the BJP accusing the state government of conspiring to keep Shah away.
On Saturday, CM Nitish Kumar blamed the communal clashes on “some mischief". “Communal tensions during Ram Navami festivities at Sasaram and Bihar Sharif are disturbing. Such incidents happened for the first time in the area. It’s not natural…We know some people are indulging in ‘gadbad’ (mischief) and are trying to disrupt communal harmony in the state," the chief minister said.
However, on Sunday, Amit Shah reached Hisua of Nawada district and addressed thousands of BJP supporters. He took on former ally Nitish Kumar over his purported ambition to be the Prime Minister and the state’s deteriorating law and order situation.
Apologising to the people of Sasaram for the cancellation of his public meeting, the union home minister went on to say, “There can never be peace under JD(U)-RJD coalition government. Peace can only return when BJP comes to power in Bihar. Make us win and we will hang the rioters upside down and straighten them out (dangaion ko ulta latka kar seedha karenge).”
Shah also took a dig at the Rashtriya Janata Dal. “One person wants to become the Prime Minister and Lalu ji’s son wants to be the chief minister, I want to tell Lalu ji, you know Nitish, he can’t be the Prime Minister, the post is not available. The people of the country have decided that Narendra Modi will become the Prime Minister for a third consecutive term. Once that happens, Nitish Kumar will go back on his promise of handing over the mantle to his deputy Tejashwi Yadav as his dreams of becoming the PM will be shattered," he said.
He reiterated that the BJP’s doors are permanently closed to the Bihar chief minister and the Janata Dal (United). “The BJP can never join hands with Nitish Kumar, who spreads venom of casteism, and for ‘Jungle Raj’ pioneer Lalu Prasad, the doors are closed forever, even after elections," the minister said.
After discussing the law and order situation with governor RV Arlekar, Shah said that it was useless to speak to the chief minister of Bihar as he can’t handle the situation. “I am the home minister of the country so I have the right to take reports from governors about the law and order situation. Why can’t Nitish say that he is unfit for governing Bihar?” he said.
After Shah’s departure, the political war of words escalated as JD(U)’s Neeraj Kumar in a press conference called him a “liar" and termed his statements “misleading".
Monday morning began with a protest by BJP MLAs outside the assembly. The legislators demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency and a judicial inquiry into the clashes, and asked the mahagathbandhan government not to indulge in “appeasement politics". The MLAs also asked the government to reveal the identity of the arrested rioters.
Leader of the opposition Vijay Sinha said, “The government has failed. Everything has happened under the protection of the government and people’s properties have been burnt, but the government is still a silent spectator."
Soon after the assembly was adjourned following a ruckus by the opposition, Bihar finance minister and senior JD(U) leader Vijay Kumar Choudhary told the media, “Nothing is hidden. It’s very sad that the home minister came just after the clashes. It would have been sensible if he could have appealed for peace but he didn’t. We expected a positive approach from the home minister. The Centre has a responsibility towards the state." It was because of the state government’s vigilance that the clashes could not escalate, he added.
Choudhary further asked, “Was it right to throw chairs in the assembly? Is it a message of peace to the people? The people of Bihar are watching all this very closely. It was not expected from the country’s home minister to say ‘ulta latka denge’…We follow the Nitish model. We believe in brotherhood. It seems as elections are approaching, the BJP is hitting new lows as far as statements are concerned.”
Responding to CNN-News18’s question about Shah’s statement of BJP’s doors being closed forever to Nitish and JD(U), he said, “Who is applying for it? Have we made any applications for entry? Because the BJP has weakened without the JD(U), such statements are made by these people. Nobody wants to go with the BJP now.”
Earlier in a tweet, JD(U) president Lalan Singh alleged the misuse of the institution of governor by the Centre in several states and criticised Shah for calling the governor rather than CM Nitish Kumar. He wrote, “It is clear from your speech in Nawada that the Badka Jhutha Party (BJP) has become desperate and is in a frenzy. You can talk to His Excellency the Governor 10 times a day, why would we be worried…? People in Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra are witnesses, everyone has seen how you use an institution like Governor politically. If you want, make your residence in Raj Bhavan till the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. You will get the same result as in 2015. There will be BJP-free India in 2024, the big liar party will get zero from Bihar.”
Amid the political skirmishing, locals say the situation in both Nalanda and Rohtas remains volatile. Internet services are down even three days after the violence. Section 144 is imposed in Bihar Sharif. Shops remain closed because of rumours and misinformation. Streets are empty and only sirens and announcements are heard. Three battalions of paramilitary forces each including CRPF, ITBP and SSB have been deployed in Sasaram and Bihar Sharif in addition to 14 battalions of Bihar police. Over 2,000 personnel of Bihar police and magistrates are camping in Sasaram.
Rohtas superintendent of police Vineet Kumar informed CNN-News18 that the situation is under control and returning towards normalcy in the district. He appealed to the people to not pay attention to rumours and maintain peace. “We are conducting flag marches, meeting with peace committees and have deployed sufficient forces at every nook and corner of Sasaram. We expect everything will be back to normal within a day or two," he said.
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