The community centre in Kargili market, under Bermo police station in Bokaro, now wears a deserted look. On March 16, this was the first flashpoint for a pitched battle between the police and a large mob, many of them from religious outfits.
Four days on, supporters and kin of those charged in the case allege that police randomly accused people without verifying facts — a charge the police refute.
That morning, a Muslim youth was locked in the club and a mob outside wanted to “teach him a lesson”. The youth had allegedly commented on and shared an objectionable post on a Hindu goddess on a social networking site. With the police thwarting attempts to hand out vigilante “justice”, the mob turned their ire on the men in khaki, attacking the Bermo police station, damaging police vehicles, and also torching more than half-a-dozen meat shops, all owned by Muslims.
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The FIR lodged in connection with the violence under sections of rioting, arson, wrongful confinement, causing injury, obstructing public servant from discharge of duty and criminal conspiracy names 50 people, including the Muslim youth. Among these are Bajrang Dal activist Rudra Singh; Ramu Bigar, who claims to be local leader of Hindu Jagran Manch; and Pankaj Pandey, who claims to be the VHP block president. All three are said to be absconding.
“The police claim they have named people (in FIR) on the basis of video evidence…(but) Rudra had left for Khatu Shyam-ji (temple) in Rajasthan a day before the incident,” said Yogesh Tiwari, a local social worker.
Rudra’s father Rakesh Singh, a trade unionist associated with BJP for long, said: “I have asked the administration to hang my son if he was found present on the spot that day. He was in Rajasthan. If he has been implicated falsely, those who named him in FIR should be punished.”
Inspector Arvind Kumar Sinha of Bermo police station said Rudra’s presence had not been established in the video footage but his involvement was not ruled out. He said it is not always necessary for a suspect to be present on the spot to be named in an FIR as “there is the possibility of being involved from behind the scenes (as well)”. Sinha said Bigar and Pandey were involved in the skirmish at Kargili and led “from the front” with the demand that the youth be handed over to them.
VHP state in-charge, Ganga Prasad Yadav, said: “From information I have, most of those named in the FIR were not present. We will try to verify the facts.”
Bokaro SP Y S Ramesh, however, said: “There is no confusion about what the mob wanted — they wanted to take law into their hands. We are taking action against those involved in violence. Raids are also being conducted to arrest the boy who allegedly shared the original post.” He added that the police will conduct a fair probe.