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Minister kin killed in Bihar

Patna, Feb. 16: Seven persons, including relatives of the Jharkhand mines minister and the local MLA, were gunned down last night in Nawada’s Warsaligunge block in a raid linked to an old gang rivalry fed by caste hatred.

Minister Ravinder Rai’s uncle Nunulal Singh, MLA Aruna Devi’s father-in-law Kailash Singh and six-year-old Sumant Kumar were among the five upper-caste Bhumihars killed. The two other casualties were from Sahu families.

“This killing is retaliatory in nature and a direct fallout of the murder of five Dalits in the same block on February 12,” said Bihar inspector-general of police (operation) Neelmani. Nawada superintendent of police B.B. Prasad was removed following the series of murders in the last four days.

Bihar home secretary B.K. Haldar and director-general D.P. Ojha told reporters here that the killings were the outcome of old caste hatred and rivalry over sand-mining contracts between two ganglords — one a Bhumihar, the other from the backward castes.

Akhilesh Singh, whose wife Aruna is the Independent MLA, is now in jail, but is said to be running his gang from there. Rival Ashok Mahato, who is at large after escaping from Sheikhpura jail last year, has struck fear in the hearts of the upper castes.

The vicious massacre cycle began last Wednesday night, when five supporters of Mahato were killed while digging a riverbed allegedly by Singh’s men at Dariapurghat.

Mahato’s gang executed a swift revenge last night. The ganglord’s men were lying in wait at Kochgaon for a jeep carrying men of the rival group. As the jeep slowed at a turning, they swooped down on it. After asking the women to alight, they opened fire on the vehicle killing five men. Two, including the child, were seriously wounded and succumbed to their injuries later.

The BJP has called a bandh in the central Bihar district as fears of another round of caste carnage gripped Nawada. Ojha said a special task force set up under DIG (Magadh Range) N.C. Dhondiyal is conducting raids in the neighbouring areas.

“We have been abandoned by the administration. The killers were baying for my life and they killed my father. We need no one now,” said Aruna, whose supporters vandalised shops and damaged six buses at Warsaligunge market. The residents, too, were up in arms and tried to stop police from entering the area. The police have despatched more forces and are trying to persuade the victims’ families to cooperate with the investigation.

The East Central Railway suspended service in the Gaya-Kiul section, that covers Nawada, as a precautionary measure. In 2000, two trains were torched in violence sparked by a round of killings. The district administration is worried as the 2000 flare-up between the gangs had culminated in the massacre of 34 people at Mianpur in Aurangabad.

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