| A mob in Patna during the strike called by Opposition parties against the killing of the three youths in police firing. (AFP)
Patna, Dec. 31: Flames of fury swept through Patna as a bandh to protest the killing of three youths in an alleged fake encounter ignited bonfires of vehicles on the streets.
A defensive police force scrambled to defuse the situation by arresting Shamse Alam, the officer-in-charge of Shastrinagar police station, who had led the “fake encounter”. Alam had been picked up on charges of committing murder.
The three youths — all in their early twenties — were shot dead by the police on Saturday. The students were picked up after an altercation with a telephone booth operator over the bill. The police later claimed that the three were “hardened criminals” but eyewitnesses said the youths were shot while they were walking away after being told to go home.
An uneasy government today suspended the DSP of the area and awarded Rs 5 lakh each to the next of the kin of the victims.
But the measures had little impact on the ground. Patna resembled a city torn by civil war as bands of teenagers pounced upon government vehicles, stoned them and danced on them. The protesters then poured petrol and set the vehicles ablaze.
Trouble broke out at 11 am on the north-western outskirts of the city as supporters of the bandh and the police clashed. Six vehicles were torched in the rampage that followed. The police, which tried in vain to disperse the mob by exploding teargas canisters, had to fire in the air.
An hour later, the trouble spread to the south-eastern side of the city. Angry students took to the streets, hurling Molotov cocktails at the policemen, who threw back stones.
Some youths torched a police outpost and set three jeeps on fire. Twelve more vehicles were set ablaze later. “We decided not to hit back as we know that the police were under a cloud for the role in killing the students,” said Sunil Kumar, senior superintendent of police.
Enthused by the success of the bandh and the show of strength by the irate students, the state Opposition parties, especially NDA allies, and the CPI(ML) have called another bandh on January 3.
The director general of police said the youths’ killings were being probed by the CID.