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Thursday, July 07, 2022

From cricket to clashes and buffalo ‘theft’ to bullets

How seemingly innocuous issues blew up into one communal clash after another in Bihar since NDA split.

Written by Appu Esthose Suresh | Nalanda/ Rohtas/ Aurangabad/ Gaya |
Updated: August 24, 2015 5:27:16 am
bihar, bihar communal tension, bihar violence, bihar news, bihar elections, bihar polls, bihar polls 2015, communal tension, JD(U), BJP, bharatiya janata party, india news, news A few boys had jumped this wall to fetch a kite in Sasaram, leading to a reprimand and then to violent clashes that left one dead and 17 injured. (Express Photo by: Appu Esthose Suresh)

Among the 445 entries in Bihar police records of minor incidents that led to communal clashes from June 18, 2013 — when the BJP and the JD(U) split — to June 30, 2015, nothing illustrates this bizarre, but chilling, trend better than three cases.

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Buffalo theft, rumour, gunfire

The location: Daudnagar, Aurangabad.
The background: On November 4, 2014, the morning after a Muharram procession passed through the area, the nose of a Hanuman idol in Churi Bazaar was found defaced, leading to communal clashes.
The clash: On May 17, 2015, in Tirahibag village, less than a kilometre from Churi Bazaar, a missing buffalo led to a communal clash that killed one and injured 13.

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The clash erupted after rumours spread that a group of Muslims was caught with the missing buffalo. Within hours, Muslims gathered outside the local dispensary and then confronted a group of Hindus, predominantly Yadavs, at the entrance of Churi Bazaar. Gunfire followed.

“There was tension in the air for the past many months before that clash. Today, the situation here like a ticking bomb… a minor accident involving a bicycle or even dumping of waste can trigger a clash,” said Vijay Kumar Singh, a doctor sitting outside the local dispensary.


How a kite led to a gunfight

The location: Sasaram, Rohtas.
The background: On January 8, 2015, clashes erupted between Khatiks, a Hindu SC group comprising mainly vegetable-sellers, and Gosis, a Muslim group of mostly milkmen. At the heart of the issue was a Khatik boy being allegedly beaten up after he was found urinating near a shop owned by a Muslim. This came on top of an earlier incident when Muslims objected to a DJ playing the audio of a provocative video clip during a Saraswati Idol procession.
The clash: The entry to Chalania Mohalla starts from one corner of the tomb of 15th-century emperor Sher Shah Suri. Then, you need to pass through narrow lanes with sagging illegal power lines, cross a pool of cowdung and filth seeping into a pond, and negotiate a field flooded with monsoon rains before you reach the mohalla.

bihar, bihar communal tension, Modi Govt, bihar violence, bihar news, bihar elections, bihar polls, bihar polls 2015, communal tension, JD(U), BJP, bharatiya janata party, india news, news, Indian express Naushad (left) wishes he’d never pulled up boys for jumping a wall for a kite.

There, sitting inside his cowshed that is part of his house, 22-year-old Naushad Alam said that he now regretted having reprimanded a few boys who had jumped over the wall of a kabristan (graveyard) to fetch a kite that had landed there on January 24, 2015. For, that incident provoked Dhannu Sonekar, a parent of one of the boys, and a mob to confront Alam and members of his community. As the argument escalated, Sonekar pulled out a gun and opened fire, killing one and injuring 17.

“It was an unfortunate incident,” said Kishan Lal Sonekar, brother of Dhannu who is now in jail.

“It should not have happened. But we were told our boys were badly assaulted a few days back for urinating near a shop.”

Cricket balls to bricks

The location: Chandauti village, Gaya
The background: On March 3, 2014, burning pieces of wood were thrown on the premises of a mosque.
The clash: On May 8, 2015, two players got into a fight during a local cricket match. The ground soon resembled a battleground with 1,000-odd people — a group each of Hindus and Muslims — throwing bricks at one another.

Says Rajesh Kumar, an eyewitness who was involved in brokering peace that day: “It was a quarrel on the field between two boys. I am sure they are regretting it now. The atmosphere is such that tolerance levels are low even now. Even trivial incidents get a communal colour.”

Incidentally, four months later, a similar incident took place about one and-a-half hours away, in Nalanda’s Khasganj, where clashes led to scores of people getting injured.

Here, a cricket match led to communal mobilisation after a Hindu boy, Raja Yadav, got injured in the fight. “It was not a big incident. But then the word spread that the boy was hospitalised and there was already an atmosphere of tension,” said Mohan Pandit, a 45-year-old tailor.

As The Indian Express reported on August 21, Khanganj had been on the boil since November 16, 2013, when pieces of beef were found inside the Shiva temple.


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