| Women form a human chain to protest against the eviction drive at Bhagwat Nagar on Friday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Gangs of bikers ride around Bhagwat Nagar all night in a bid to keep police away.
The epicentre of anti-eviction movement in southeast Patna, where protests continued for the third consecutive day on Friday, is under siege, its air thick with rumours and suspicion. While the residents have rebuffed the overtures of political leaders and parties to reach out to them, no one seems quite sure what will come next.
Most believe it is a lull before the storm.
“Our boys are on the move continuously. A group of 22 bikes — each with a rider and a pillion — move around the periphery of the colony all night. Their duty is to keep the administration and the police out,” said Saroj Kumar Tripathy, president, Adarsh, Bhagwat, Jai Prakash Nagar Makaan Bachao Sangharsh Morcha — the organisation spearheading the anti-eviction protest.
Sunil Kumar, one of the nocturnal vigilantes, said: “It is our duty to protect our homes.”
Describing their regular vigil, he said they begin at 11pm and continue till daybreak, moving around the colony in small groups and guarding every entrance.
“If there is an attempt to enter the colony by force, we can inform our comrades on cellphone. Also it is very quiet at night and blowing the horn of our motorbike would be enough to spread an alarm,” Sunil added.
“The district magistrate said yesterday (Thursday) that he would provide more security personnel to the administration if they need it to enter the colony. We are ready for whatever happens.”
At the focus of the agitation are the houses constructed illegally on 22.1 acres at Bhagwat Nagar in Kankerbagh. On September 12, the Supreme Court had directed the district administration to demolish 50 structures within six weeks. But when the authorities turned up at the locality on Wednesday with a police force to evict the residents, they encountered a stiff protest.
“Some of us were on an indefinite hunger strike since Thursday. On Friday, three MLAs (Arun Manjhi and Manish Kumar of the JD(U) and Arun Kumar Sinha of the BJP) visited us. They assured us that they would be talking to the chief minister about the problem. So, we called off the hunger strike,” said protester Tripathy.
“But the protest will continue.”
The protesters have, however, removed some of the blockades so that the people of the colony can do the daily chores. But security forces and administrative officials would still find it a tough challenge to gain a foothold in the colony.
“We are present all the time at the protest site,” said Tripathy. “We shall do everything to protect our homes.”
Politicians from both the ruling alliance and the opposition have scurried to the protest site to gain mileage but with little success. On Thursday, the people snubbed BJP MLA Sinha. The day before, RJD general-secretary Ram Kripal Yadav had turned up at the site as well.
JD(U) and BJP leaders also submitted a petition to the district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Singh on Thursday. The police, on the other hand, have lodged an FIR against 86 people at Agamkuan police station against the violence that ensued on Wednesday.
The only sense of normality at the area is the schools that reopened on Friday.
Raj Kumar, the administrative head of Litera Valley School, said: “We had to close the school on September 26 and 27 for security reasons, keeping in mind the protest at Bhagwat Nagar. But we are having exams and the school is open today (Friday).”