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BJP stir holds capital hostage

- Police water cannons, tear gas touch raw nerve

Ranchi, Aug. 5: Around 7,000 state BJP members today laid siege to approach roads near the Assembly building to decry Hemant Soren government as a colossal failure and rally for its dismissal, the protest crippling the capital and triggering the police to fire water cannons and tear gas at protesters.

Though the BJP might have proved a point by the sheer show of strength that lasted from 10.30am to 3.30pm, the masses — the vote bank for any party — bore the brunt.

Protest, police action, barricades and traffic jams, all amid intermittent rain, made it a Terrible Tuesday for thousands of schoolchildren, college students, office-goers and others.

Despite intermittent rains, BJP party workers gathered near Hinoo Road close to Birsa Chowk, Harmu bypass and Dhurwa. They raised slogans against the ruling JMM-Congress-RJD government and cheered speeches made by frontline party leaders Arjun Munda, Raghubar Das, Yashwant Sinha, Ravindra Rai and so on, making a jittery police lathicharge crowds at Harmu bypass and near Birsa Chowk.

More dramatically, Birsa Chowk came for its share of water cannons and tear gas.

The main gate at Birsa Chowk, 1km from the state Assembly and connecting Hinoo Road, was shut to stop protesters from getting too close for comfort. Two other barricades, one near Delhi Public School (DPS) at Satellite Colony on Harmu bypass and other near Kairali School at Sector 2 in Dhurwa, were erected. Some 700 police personnel, including Rapid Action Force, were deployed.

At Harmu, hundreds of DPS students were seen stranded as the bypass stayed clogged with a massive traffic jam till over 1.30pm.

Many worried parents were seen near barricades, requesting the police to let them pass so that they could receive their children.

Deepika, a DPS teacher, only said: “You can imagine how difficult it can be for children when protests, traffic jams and heavy rainfall combine.”

The road eased slightly when protesters around 2pm started moving towards Birsa Chowk, the epicentre of the BJP protest. But here again, thousands of pedestrians were left standing in queue on both sides.

“From an hour, I am standing in queue along with my sister Ruchi to cross to the opposite side and reach Hinoo road. I don’t know how long it will take. I wonder why political parties don’t organise such shows on holidays or weekends,” said Mayank, a student.

As traffic was blocked, Hinoo and Mecon areas suffered a ripple effect. Traffic policemen had long deserted their posts.

By 2pm, police lathicharged the teeming crowds and fired water cannons and tear gas at Birsa Chowk, an action the BJP condemned as “political vendetta”. BJP worker from Deoghar Sanjay Ram suffered burns when a tear gas explosion allegedly caused his shirt to catch fire and was admitted to Devkamal Hospital in Kathal More. Four more party workers were also injured.

In the Assembly, as news of police action spread, BJP MLAs rushed to the Well of the House around 2.30pm and demanded action against district administration and the police.

Former chief minister and BJP leader Arjun Munda has announced the party would observe a Black Day tomorrow against the “highhandedness of district administration and police”. “Demonstration is a political right. The administration today tried to suppress it. Our workers were beaten up when everything was peaceful,” state BJP vice-president Anant Ojha told mediapersons.

Hemant’s No. 2 Rajendra Prasad Singh has declared an examination of video footage to fix accountability.

On a lighter note, the protest gave a group of youths at Birsa Chowk the chance to earn some cash. As vehicular movement at the chowk was clamped, people on two-wheelers had no other option but to cross the railway line. A group of five youths charged Rs 10 from each person to lift each vehicle.

“Sir, it is an opportunity and we are making the best use out of it by dint of our labour. Don’t mind. At least we are not fleecing people like politicians,” said one of the youths, Tufani Ram.