The fathers of two children who died of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Vaishali district are among 19 people named in an FIR for blocking traffic on the Muzaffarpur-Hajipur highway during a protest on June 18.
The residents of Harvanshpur village were demanding water tankers for their village after seven children succumbed to AES over the period of a fortnight. The 19 have been booked under IPC Sections 147, 148 and 149 (rioting and unlawful assembly), 188 (disobedience to order), 283 (obstruction in public way), 353 (assault) and 504 (breach of peace).
Rajesh Sahni, who lost his seven-year-old daughter to AES on June 9, said: “As the state government had not been listening to us even after children had been dying, several of us protested on the national highway, demanding water tankers. I was surprised to see my name among 19 accused for breach of peace.”
He claimed that it was only after the protest that the government “woke up” and started a door-to-door check-up of children in Harvanshpur.
Ramdev Sahni, another Harvanshpur villager who lost his two-year-old daughter to AES, is also among accused.
“I came to know about being named in the FIR only two days ago. I am still mourning my daughter’s loss. Is demanding water tankers a crime? This shows the very attitude of the government towards the poor,” he said, denying charges of rioting and assault as mentioned in the FIR.
Harvanshpur villagers and social organisations have taken up the matter with Vaishali district administration.
Kedar Singh, president of a voluntary group expressing solidarity with the villagers, said, “We demand the FIR be quashed and brought it to notice to district administration. Some government officials visited the village on Tuesday.”
Bhagwanpur police station in-charge Sanjay Kumar said, “We have booked those who had been blocking traffic and causing law-and-order problems. As Rajesh and Ramdev were also present, they were booked.”