A day after a 21-year-old undergraduate student was killed by an unidentified man from a gang of six or seven muffled men, Jehanabad town in Bihar remained tense on Saturday, with prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144, enforced Thursday for Durga visarjan, still in force.
The deceased, Vishnu Kumar, was a student of Jehanabad’s Swami Sahjanand College, relatives said, adding that he was standing in the backyard of his home, watching people moving around when unidentified men, their faces muffled, came and shot him in the abdomen.
Vishnu was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
On Saturday, combined forces of Bihar Police, Rapid Action Force and Special Task Force kept vigil in communally sensitive areas; the police conducted raids to detain troublemakers from both communities.
A curfew-like atmosphere prevailed in the town, with all marketplaces closed and minimum traffic on road.
Meanwhile, Internet in the town has been suspended for three days.
The town, with a population of approximately 1.2 lakh, has about 50,000 Muslim residents.
Clashes, which took communal colour, occurred on Thursday and Friday over immersion of Durga idols. A total of 15 cases have been lodged against about 150 named and 1,000 unknown people for rioting, causing injury, breach of peace, hurting religious sentiments and criminal intimidation.
Jehananbad SP Maneesh confirmed that 60 people have been arrested so far.
Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey and Home Secretary Amir Subhani conducted emergency meetings on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday and later issued an appeal to people from all communities to adhere to prohibitory orders and inform police control room about any troublemakers.
A police officer who was at the crime site said the attack on Vishnu appeared to be a ploy to provoke a communal flare-up. “He had nothing to do with the communal spat that took place on Thursday,” the officer said. “We are seeking video footage from local residents….The next couple of days will be crucial even though we are in full control of the situation.”
Late Wednesday evening, around 50 idols, led by the main Thakurwadi idol, was taken out for a round of the town before immersion. As DJs kept playing music past the Supreme Court-mandated deadline of 10 pm, some Muslim residents reportedly brought it to police’s notice. Although Jehanabad DM Naveen Kumar and SP Maneesh tried to intervene, most DJs, the police said, kept playing as idols moved along Nichli Road, Jama Masjid, Kachchi Masjid, Naya Tola and Hospital and National Highway-83 through the town.
While police personnel accompanied the procession throughout Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, the forces were deemed inadequate against the massive crowd. At one point on Thursday morning, 10-15 people allegedly came from Muslim-dominated Kachchi Masjid area and started throwing stones, damaging one Durga idol. Those accompanying the idols threw stones in retaliation. Clashes soon broke out and over a dozen shops, belonging to people from both communities, were torched, the police said.