A procession of BJP, RSS and Bajrang Dal workers — led by Arijit Shashwat, son of Union Minister of State Ashwini Kumar Choubey — triggered communal clashes in Bhagalpur town on Saturday, as the participants allegedly raised provocative slogans.
The procession, organised by the Bharatiya Navvarsh Jagran Samiti on the eve of the Hindu New Year, passed through a 15-km route, which included at least half-a-dozen Muslim-dominated areas. The clashes occurred in Medini Chowk under Nathnagar police station, a Muslim-dominated area.
According to sources, the motorcycle procession was passing through the area at around 3.45 pm, when there was stone pelting. Lalmatia outpost in-charge Sanjeev Kumar, who was deployed in Nathnagar, said some of the slogans raised by the participants were “provocative”, and could have triggered the violence.
Denying this, Shashwat, who unsuccessfully fought the last assembly elections as the BJP candidate from Bhagalpur, said: “It was a motorcycle procession. I was about 3-4 kms from the spot when the stone-pelting took place. The police jeep was moving ahead of me. You can check video clips of the incident to confirm what I am saying.”
Choubey, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, said: “I am proud that Arijit is my son. All BJP workers are like my son. Is there anything wrong in leading a procession to celebrate the Hindu New Year? Kya Ma Bharat ki baat karna galat hai? Kya Vande Mataram kehna gunah hai? (Is it wrong to talk about Bharat Ma? Is it a crime to say Vande Mataram?)”
Sanjeev Kumar, a local BJP leader who took part in the procession, said the stone-pelting occurred when most of the motorcycles had moved ahead. “As some of the participants kept shouting slogans, some Muslims reacted. After some time, there was stone pelting,” he said.
Three policemen were injured in the stone-pelting between the two communities. “Despite our best efforts, the stone-pelting continued for about 45 minutes,” said a police officer of Nathnagar police station. Bhagalpur SSP Manoj Kumar said the police had filed an FIR against unknown persons.
Though no prohibitory orders have been imposed, most of the shops in Nathnagar remained closed on Sunday. Police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in 18 sensitive pockets in and around Bhagalpur town, including at least 10 areas under Nathnagar police station.
“We are trying to identify lumpen elements. We have also been talking to the two communities,” said Nathnagar police station in-charge Mohammed Janifuddin.