A vehicle set ablaze by crowds accompanying the funeral procession of Brahmeshwar Singh “Mukhiya” in Patna on Saturday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh
Patna, June 2: Fear gripped the city today as supporters of slain Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh “Mukhiya” turned his funeral procession into a show of strength, power and frenzied destruction all along the 60-km stretch from Ara to Patna where he was consigned to flames.
Thousands of people, all claiming to be supporters of the man they described as the “Gandhi” of Bihar, indulged in everything non-Gandhian as they marched along. They burned vehicles, thrashed people, including media persons doing their duty, and damaged public property at will.
Brahmeshwar, 65, the chief of the now defunct private militia of landlords, was shot dead early on Friday when he was taking his morning walk near his home in Ara.
The administration allowed the last rites of the dreaded Sena chief to be held at the Baans Ghat in Patna. The procession started from Ara to Patna around 9 in the morning and started swelling in numbers as it proceeded.
Patna residents questioned the decision to allow the funeral to be held in the state capital as the Ranvir Sena commander had neither the base nor supporters or sympathisers in the city.
“I am sure that these men are going to create a lot of trouble in Patna when they enter. They are just gaining in numbers and are creating havoc everywhere. We don’t understand what made the state government give permission to have the funeral here when Ara has got the Sone River. The Ganges also flows quite near Ara. They could have taken him to Buxar too. All this seems to be heavily politically motivated,” Manoj Keshav, a businessman, told The Telegraph as he hurriedly shut is shop.
Keshav’s words proved prophetic.
Police, though present in large numbers all along the stretch and in the state capital too, decided against acting tough against the mob, sensing the tension that hung heavy in the air.
The crowd took advantage of the police’s soft posturing and created ruckus with the first major incident taking place near Bihta, 30km from Patna, where the windscreen of the car belonging to BJP Bihar president C.P. Thakur was smashed by a group of processionists.
“Thakur had gone in the morning to pay homage to the deceased. He was in the car along with MLA from Bikram, Anil Kumar, and they were just behind the vehicle carrying Mukhiya’s body. The crowd grew to thousands in a matter of an hour and as they reached Bihta, a strong group of around a thousand men suddenly stopped his (Thakur’s) car and started dragging out Kumar. The bodyguards somehow controlled the situation but the car’s windscreen was smashed,” a police officer told The Telegraph on condition of anonymity.
As the procession entered Danapur, some 10km away from Patna, shopkeepers started downing their shutters, fearing for their property. At Danapur, a large group of the mob, which mostly comprised young men on motorcycles, suddenly started attacking media persons.
At least 15 journalists had to be admitted in hospitals for treatment. Things got out of control at the Raja Bazaar area with the mob burning down the police camp located at Sheikhpura Mor.
As the group advanced from Raja Bazaar, the entire Bailey Road shut down. The busy Kotwali Roundabout and all the shops at Mauryalok Complex saw their shutters down as traders fled to the safety of their homes.
By 3.30pm, the crowd had reached the Bailey Road area, near the chief minister’s residence. A group of agitators tried to enter the VIP zone.