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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Aurangabad clashes: BJP worker behind Ram Navami rally flees custody

Also named in three FIRs: BJP district spokesperson, an ABVP leader, an RJD youth leader, four Muslim councillors; most of those booked are aged 30 or below.

Written by Santosh Singh | Aurangabad | Updated: March 30, 2018 12:15:52 pm
bihar, aurangabad violence, Ram Navami rally, Ram Navami rally violence, bihar police, nitish kumar, aurangabad communal clashes, bihar communal clashes, bihar violence, bihar news, indian express A shoe showroom that was burnt down in Aurangabad. (Photo: Santosh Singh)

Among 148 persons booked for the communal clashes in Aurangabad on March 25 and 26, one of the central figures escaped from police custody Thursday. Anil Singh, a BJP worker who is also associated with an organisation called Hindu Sewa Samiti, gave the district police the slip in a local court. “Singh was taken to court for being produced when he managed to flee. Action is being taken against negligent policemen,” said Aurangabad SP Satya Prakash.

For several years, Singh, 49, has been one of the main organisers of Ram Navami processions taken out by the Hindu Sewa Samiti, which has a unit also in UP. Singh was among 30 accused for clashes in 2016, too.

An engineering college dropout, he was associated with the ABVP and later joined the Bihar People’s Party floated by Rajput leader Anand Mohan, who is serving a life sentence in connection with the murder of then Gopalganj DM G Krishnaiah. Singh himself was named in a murder case, that of his cousin Satyendra Narayan Singh in 1999; he was later acquitted. Anil Singh served at least seven years in jail. He joined the BJP in 2007 and got involved with Hindu Sewa Samiti, which mostly organises socio-religious events.

Anil Singh had campaigned in 2010 for the BJP’s Ramdhar Singh, who won the Aurangabad Assembly seat and became a minister. In 2014, he campaigned for Sushil Kumar Singh, who won the Lok Sabha seat. “Anil Singh has been associated with BJP for some time and campaigned for me,” the MP said.

Others booked and arrested

Besides Anil Singh, Aurangabad BJP spokesperson Ujjwal Kumar and ABVP leader Deepak Kumar have been named in an FIR (95/2018) under IPC sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 147, 148 and 149 (rioting and unlawful assembly), 295A (outraging religious feelings) and other charges, and also under Arms Act provisions. They are among 78 people named in this FIR; police have not yet identified those who opened fire.

Three FIRs have been lodged against the 148 persons in Aurangabad, of whom 125 have been arrested. In Nalanda, police have arrested 36; in Samastipur, 12. In Nalanda, 74 police have been named for stone pelting at Silao. Samastipur police did not confirm the arrest of two BJP leaders, who were detained for a few hours.

Among the 148 booked in Aurangabad are an RJD leader, at least four Muslim ward councillors and a local mukhiya. Nearly two-thirds of those named are aged between 18 and 30, several of them from Yadav-dominated villages around the town.

The three FIRs said the violence was triggered by stone-pelting by a group of Muslims on March 25, when a motorcycle procession was passing through a Muslim-dominated area. Later, people of each community damaged the other’s property, gutting 45 shops.

Some of the accused in lockup. (Photo: Santosh Singh)

Among those named are:

UJJWAL KUMAR: BJP Aurangabad district spokesperson, he comes from an ABVP background. Named for trying to mobilise support, he is absconding. No previous cases.

MOHD YUSUF: Yuva RJD district president, reportedly spotted provoking people in video footage — one of around 200 clips gathered by police. Yusuf is absconding.

WARD COUNCILLORS: Some Muslim ward councillors are being probed for alleged roles in inciting violence. Among them is Sikander Hayat, also named in 2016 clash and other cases. Altaf Qureshi and Mohammed Farooq are on the run. They allegedly mobilised Muslim youths on March 26, when about a dozen people were injured and about 20 shops of both communities burnt.

SUJEET SINGH: Khairadih Panchayat mukhiya, a BJP supporter. He is absconding. Police have detained his brother Ranbir Pratap Singh, an engineering graduate studying MBA. His father, Ramshakal Singh said at Town police station: “I do not deny the presence of my mukhiya son in the procession. He is a public representative and a BJP supporter, willing to join the party. The police have detained my other son, who was not in the procession, because Sujeet is absconding.”

Ground zero

While there was heavy police deployment at Town police station, the main area of the town remained tense. With prohibitory orders in place, some shops were open but shopkeepers looked wary. Policemen checked vehicles at all entry points. Two special investigation teams have been set up. The police station lock-ups had several Hindu and Muslim youths while their guardians looked about for senior officers to tell their sides of the story.

People from either side blamed the administration for lack of preparation. Several Muslim residents said the police should have diverted the route of the main Ram Navami procession, shobha yatra, on March 26 following the clash of the previous day. Besides, there was inadequate police deployment in several Muslim-dominated areas, they said. R K Singh, who was in the procession, said, “The entrance to Muslim-dominated Nawadih, Pathantoli and Kasai Toli could have been properly covered. There were no preventive detentions.”

The motorcycle procession had started around 4 pm and travelled with police escort. When some 100 motorcylists, chanting “Jai Shri Ram” slogans, raised the pitch on reaching Muslim-dominated Nawadih, a group — 28 of them were later arrested —started pelting stones. The local administration held a meeting with representatives from both communities that night.

The next day’s procession had around 10,000 people — it usually has 2,000-3,000. BJP MP Sushil Kumar Singh too attended. When the slogan-chanting procession reached Old GT Road and moved towards Dharnidhar Road, which has a mixed population of Muslims and Hindus, stone pelting started. The processionists moved ahead and torched several shops along the way.

Haider Ali, whose son Sartaj Alam’s steel furniture shop was burnt down on March 26, said, “We have lost goods worth Rs 8 lakh. They broke open my shut shop and set it on fire. The district administration could have made better police arrangements and done community policing.”

Narendra Kumar Ravi, whose shop of band instruments was torched, said: “Elements from either side are responsible. Had police taken harsh action against the accused of the 2016 communal clash, this would not have happened.” No chargesheet has been filed for the 2016 case.

“Since 2016, there has been so much aggression and counter-aggression. If a person like Khan Imroz, whose shoe showroom was torched, decides to shift his business, it will be a defeat for our secular setup,” said Mehmood Alam, a social activist.

DG (Bihar Military Police) Gupteshwar Pandey has been sent to Aurangabad as a special officer. He told The Indian Express: “This is not the time to assess how we could have done things otherwise. Our first job is the assertion of police authority and area dominance. We have deployed some 100 Special Branch officers in plainclothes to guard against rumour-mongering. Besides those named in the three FIRs, the SIT has identified 50 more troublemakers.”

Asked if these people have affiliations to religious groups or political parties, Pandey said: “We do not investigate on those lines. They are just troublemakers.”

Sushil Kumar Singh, the MP, has been under attack from the Opposition, which alleges that he had provoked the crowd on March 26 (no case has been filed against him). The MP told The Indian Express: “One can check my background. I did attend the procession, as did leaders from various parties. I have not said or done anything objectionable.”

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