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Fault lines in Nitish, Manjhi, Lalu backyard

In Jehanabad, what led police to conclude that the riots were planned was a curious fact: all the lathis recovered from rioters and from various parts of the city were of the same size.

Updated: August 21, 2015 11:53:45 am
Bihar elections, Bihar polls,Nitish kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Bihar riots, Bihar communal clashes, bihar assembly polls, Bihar polls, Bihar communal incidents, BJP, JD(U), BJp JD(U)alliance, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, Bihar, Nitish Kumar, BJP, bihar polls, bihar poll campaign, Indian express RJD chief Lalu Yadav with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

Nalanda: Neem trees, beef wrapped in plastic

To understand what went wrong in Nalanda, you need to travel through a narrow lane to reach Khasganj in the middle of town.

About 100 metres into the lane, you will come across a Shiva temple on the left and the one-room house of Mohan Pandit, a 45-year-old tailor and potter, on the right. Then, after you negotiate the narrow turns that lie ahead, with houses spilling over to the road leaving little space for vehicles to pass by, you will come across a mosque.

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The handful of “communal incidents” recorded in this neighbourhood of Yadavs, Muslims and Paswans from 2010 to June 2013 were mainly triggered by Muharram procession flags allegedly brushing the lower branches of two neem trees, which stand next to the mosque and are considered “sacred” by the Hindus. “Every year, during Muharram, we would cover the branches so that the procession flags do not touch them,” said a police officer.

But all that changed in four days spread over a year. On November 16, 2013 and October 18, 2014, pieces of beef were hurled into the Shiva temple.

“It was placed in a polythene cover the second time. We don’t know who did it. But senior police officers came and controlled the situation,” said Pandit, the tailor who stays opposite the temple.

And on July 22, 2014 and October 26, 2014, unidentified pieces of bones and cowdung were found splattered on the walls of the mosque.

”The district administration rushed to hold peace meetings and reduce the tension,” said a police officer.

Police records trace the source of the communal tension to an incident on July 16, 2013, when Hindus, with the support of local religious leaders, objected to construction of a wall by Muslims in a vacant land near the mosque.

That was 28 days after the BJP and JD(U) parted ways.

Jehanabad: How VHP bandh set the ball rolling

In 1997, Jehanabad witnessed the infamous Batan Tola massacre in which 61 Dalits, including an 11-month-old baby and an 80-year-old woman, were brutally killed by the Bhumihar-led Ranvir Sena.

Eighteen years later, it took just three days to topple the balance of caste that had ruled political equations in this district over the years. And that happened from June 25-27, as a VHP bandh quickly escalated into the district’s first full-scale communal riot.

While police records point to the involvement of VHP activists in stoking communal passions, what was significant was the leading role played by members of the Dom community in the violence against Muslims.

The Doms are one of the 18 groups tagged as Mahadalits in Bihar, and the district is part of the belt that has the highest concentration of Dalits in the state.

Police records show that the riot was sparked by the fencing of land on one side of the Suhyi Ghat, about 100m from the local temple and a popular site along the Dardha river for the traditional Chhath Puja.

Police said tensions were simmering ever since rumours began circulating in May about the construction of a mosque on a patch of land that surfaced near the ghat after the river changed course.

”While the Doms staked their claim to land as the graveyard of their ancestors, Muslims sought to fence it, forcing the administration to declare it as ‘no-man’s land’,” a local police officer said.

”On June 23, a few Muslims attempted to fence the land, triggering clashes. When the police tried to intervene, a mob chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans attacked them. On June 25, mobs forced Muslim shops to pull down their shutters in Raja Bazaar, leading to a scuffle and then a riot that lasted for three days,” he added.

“Whoever has done wrong should be punished,” said Mukesh Pathak, who lives next to Suhyi Ghat. “Attacking police was wrong, but we should look at the cause.”

What led police to conclude that the riots were planned was a curious fact: all the lathis recovered from rioters and from various parts of the city were of the same size.

Saran: A DJ takes on Pakistan with slogans

In February last year, eight activists of the Bajrang Dal were named in an FIR by police for inciting communal violence in Saran’s Kopa Basdila, in the middle of Lalu Prasad’s political base. The FIR was registered after clashes, involving around 1,000 people, erupted on February 2 after the DJ accompanying a Hindu procession started shouting provocative slogans against Pakistan.

Local police said that since 2013, the DJ has also been playing audio clips from a YouTube video showing a teenage girl, clad in saffron robes with a white tilak on her forehead, taunting Pakistan in a 3-minute-long diatribe.

They also claimed that when the procession passes through a Muslim neighbourhood, the DJ plays anti-Pakistan dialogues from Bollywood movies, particularly of those starring Sunny Deol.

It was in this neighbourhood, on Gaffar Khan Road, that The Indian Express met Haji Fazale Rab Khan, in his 80s. “We have been living peacefully here for years. We attend Hindu festivals and they come over to my home during Eid. But in the last few years, some lumpen elements have suddenly emerged, and started provoking people and vitiating the atmosphere,” Khan said.

“Are we not Indians? Why do they shout ‘Pakistan murdabad’ when they pass by our masjid or neighbourhood?” he asked.

“We still have a cordial relationship with Muslims,” said Rai Bahur Sah, one of the Bajrang Dal activists named in the FIR. “They (Muslims) are opposed to the formation of Bajrang Dal and that is why they named us in the complaint. The problem started when Muslims opposed the procession,” he added.

Asked about the provocative slogans raised by the DJ, Sah said, “Why should they get angry? The slogans were against Pakistan. In fact, they should join us in raising the slogans.”

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First published on: 21-08-2015 at 02:42:53 am
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