Patna, Feb. 16: Seven persons, including relatives of the Jharkhand mines minister and a 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 (operations) 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 said the killings were the outcome of an old caste hatred and rivalry over sandmining 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 on the night of February 12, when five supporters of Mahato were killed, allegedly by Singh’s men, while digging a riverbed at Dariapurghat. Mahato’s gang took swift revenge last night. The ganglord’s men were lying in wait, at Kochgaon, for a jeep with 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 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 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, which covers Nawada.
In 2000, two trains were torched in violence sparked by a round of killings. The administration is worried as the 2000 flare-up had culminated in the murder of 34 people in Aurangabad.
JD(U) leader attacked
The Janata Dal (United) state president escaped a Maoist Communist Centre attack today.
The Naxalites opened fire on Gautam Sagar Rana’s cavalcade, which was part of the Sankalp Yatra.
The policemen following the yatra opened fire in retaliation, triggering a long exchange.
According to police sources, no one was injured and Rana was whisked away in time.
The Naxalites, however, escaped into the forests close to Chatra district.
Rana, who fought the Assembly polls from the Naxalite-infested Bagodar constituency and lost, had resigned from the NDA coordination committee’s chairmanship in protest against the BJP’s cold shoulder to alliance partners’ interests while taking major policy decisions.
The JD(U), which officially often opposed chief minister Babulal Marandi’s style of functioning, recently decided to organise Sankalp Yatra across the state.
According to reports reaching the district headquarters, the Yatra was on its way today to Chatra district according to schedule. Many district leaders from Chatra and Hazaribagh were with Rana when the MCC attacked. As Rana’s cavalcade reached Marigadha forest, around 50 Naxalites opened indiscriminate fire.
One of the bullets punctured the tyre of Rana’s car. The lights and windscreen of the jeep in which officer-in-charge of Katkamsandi was present was also targetted.
The police officers immediately escorted Rana to the Sankalp Rath and whisked him away. Later, they took positions and exchanged fire with the Naxalites for nearly three hours.
Both sides fired more than 100 rounds of bullets but no reports of casualties were reported on either side. All top officers, including superintendent of police Neeraj Sinha, rushed to the spot.
According to sources, untoward incidents were averted because of the police’s alertness.
The MCC attack occurred soon after Sinha called a meeting of police personnel to discuss a spurt in crime. Sinha directed all his officers to check the activities of the MCC in their areas and develop a network to get information on the Naxalites.
According to state officials, a massive combing operation was launched but called off because of the late hours.