A report by The Indian Express claimed that since July last year, when Nitish Kumar quit the Grand Alliance and joined the BJP to form government, the state has seen a spurt in incidents of communal tensions. Alone in 2017, 64 such cases have been reported across the state.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is facing a barrage of criticism from his political opponents over rising incidents of communal violence in the state. The recent incidents of violence during Ram Navami rallies and failure on the part of the administration in maintaining law and order situation have forced the government on the back foot. A report by The Indian Express claimed that since July last year, when Nitish Kumar quit the Grand Alliance and joined the ranks with the BJP to form government, the state has seen a spurt in incidents of communal tensions. Based on its scrutiny of official records, the report said that more than 200 cases of communal tension have been recorded by the police, including 64 in 2018, since Nitish switched allegiance to the NDA.
The report said that a scrutiny of last 6 years of police data shows that close to 900 such cases have been registered across the state. In 2012, 50 such incidents were reported; in 2013, 112 cases were registered; in 2014, 110 cases; in 2015, 155 and in 2016, 230 cases. In 2017, the state had recorded a maximum number of 270 cases.
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Central and state intelligence agencies point to an unprecedented mass mobilisation during Ram Navami rallies this year in the state, especially in Aurangabad, Nalanda and Sheikhpura. It said that police officials have taken serious note of people brandishing weapons during Ram Navami rallies. The IE report, citing sources, said that traditional weapons like lances, swords have been displayed during processions in the past too. This year though, rallies saw a bigger number of youths with new weapons including swords. This, police said, needs to be probed if new weapons were supplied to Ram Navami committees by a particular group with a certain objective.
A senior police official at the Bihar Police headquarters in Patna said that months around Ram Navani and Durga Puja have always been sensitive. He, however, said that it will be too early to conclude that there has been a surge in communal cases this year. “But yes, we do see hints of bigger mass mobilisation,” the official said.
How the violence unfolded in Bihar in past few days:
1. On March 14, a video of Muslim youths went viral on social media. It was said that the youths raised anti-India slogans outside the residence of RJD MP Sarfaraz Alam to celebrate the party’s win in the Lok Sabha bypolls. Police later arrested three youths and sent to judicial custody.
2. On March 18, Union Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey’s son Arjit Shaswat along with several BJP workers held a motorcycle procession on the eve of Hindu new year through Muslim-dominated area in Bhagalpur. The participants raised provocative slogans to which some Muslim youths objected. Both the sides pelted stones at each other, injuring many. Arjit and many others were booked by the police on charges of inciting violence.
After remaining absconding for nearly two weeks, Arjit surrendered before the police on Saturday night. He was sent to 14-day judicial custody.
3. On March 25, during a Ram Navami rally in Muzaffarpur which was passing through Songarh village, participants allegedly asked a Muslim man to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, The Indian Express reported. This, the report said, sparked a communal tension in the region, forcing police to file a case.
4. The same day, a group of people installed a statue of Lord Hanuman at a railway ground in Munger. The vacant place was being used by Muslims butchers, according to reports. The incident triggered communal tensions in the town, forcing police to intervene and arrest a few people. A total of 12 people from either side were booked for the violence. Incidents of stone-pelting were reported from the locality later in the day.
5. On March 26, in Sitamarihi, a local identified as Arun Thakur, was allegedly attacked by swords by an individual. The incident was said to be a case of personal rivalry but it sparked communal tension.
6. On the same day, communal tensions hit Samastipur too when a slipper was allegedly thrown at a Ram Navami procession which was passing through Gudari Bazar Jama Masjid area. Several people immediately gathered in the vicinity and started raising provocative slogans. More than 15 houses and shops were also stoned by people. The police later filed cases against 54 people, including a state BJP leader.
7. In Aurangabad district of south Bihar, over 100 motorcyclists took out a rally on March 26. At least 15 shops belonging to two communities were set on fire near Ramesh Chowk. 53 people were arrested by police. The next day, during Ram Navmi rally, both communities clashed with each other once again near Badi Jama Masjid that lasted for 45 minutes. Police had to file another FIR in which 78 people were named, including a BJP leader.
8. On March 27, in Banka, a case was filed against 20 unidentified people when two Muslims complained that some people who were part of a rally that was going immerse an idol raised provocative slogans.
9. The violence soon spread to Nalanda, Nawada and Jamui. On March 28, a stone pelting incident was reported from Nalanda between the members of a Ram Navami procession and Muslims. Few members of the procession had allegedly tried to cross through a Muslim village. Police filed an FIR against 74 people including 36 from the Bajrang Dal.
10. The same day in Nawada, an idol of Lord Hanuman was found damaged, sparking communal tension. A group had targeted a wedding party at a hotel and pelted stones at a bus.
11. In Jamui, the same night, when police refused to grant permission to an idol immersion procession to cross through a Muslim-dominated area, a group started pelting stones at police officials. Three officials were injured in the incident.