The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Guns go off at Cong reception

Patna, June 13: In Bihar, guns go off “accidentally” and injure bystanders at roadshows organised by even a party which swears by non-violence.

When the guns spat fire today at a rally organised by community supporters of Ram Jatan Sinha, a Bhumihar, to welcome their leader home on his return from Delhi as state Congress chief, seven were injured.

The wounded, four of them boys between 15 and 17, were rushed to hospital. Hit in the legs, most of them will be operated on to remove the bullets.

The victims were either passing by or were employees of firms in the locality out on work.

Police have zeroed in on one of the supporters, Uttam Singh. “We don’t know if he did it deliberately. It is unlikely. The trigger of the guns might have been pressed accidentally as the supporters were rejoicing. The shots hit the legs (of victims) as the guns were hanging from their shoulders,” police officer S.B. Sharma said.

He was present at the spot near the Zakir Hussain Institute on Hartali Chowk, where the supporters had converged to garland Sinha.

Ram Ratan Rai, a victim and employee of Industrial Data Bank, said the rally was large and most of Sinha’s supporters were carrying guns.

When Sinha reached the spot around 1 pm, cheers went up and some his supporters held aloft their weapons, shouting slogans. “I was one of the bystanders,” Rai said. “Suddenly, somebody fired and the bullets began to hit pedestrians. I began to bleed and fell unconscious. And now I find myself in Patna Medical College,” he said.

The firing sparked chaos in the locality as agitated pedestrians pelted Sinha’s supporters with stones.

Taken aback, some in the Congress crowd fired a round in the air to disperse the angry pedestrians.

Pappu Yadav, the Independent MP from Purnia with a reputation for strong-arm tactics, was quick to take a dig at the Congress. “I was struck to see the Congressmen, who profess the policy of non-violence, carrying guns,” he said.

A senior Rashtriya Janata Dal leader took the opportunity to show his party’s ruling coalition ally its place. “If this is the beginning of the Congress under Ram Jatan Sinha in Bihar, the end could turn out to be quite dreadful.”

Sinha, however, was unruffled. He said his supporters did fire a round after they were pelted with stones, but he did not know who among the crowd had fired. “I believe he was not a Congressman. It is not possible for anyone to identify anyone.”

The Congress, he said, would be on an agitational mode from now. “We will highlight the misadventure of the BJP as well as the RJD, if there is any,” Sinha said.

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