Sweep of vandalism across state in guise of protest

The Bharat Bandh called by the Congress and supported by several Opposition parties, including the RJD, Hindustani Awam Morcha Secular (HAMS), Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) and the Left, against the skyrocketing prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas started in the right earnest in Bihar on Monday, but soon degenerated into hooliganism, vandalism, arson as rowdy elements ravaged roads and streets across the state to disrupt normal life.

By Dev Raj in Patna
  • Published 11.09.18
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Bandh supporters burn tyres on the road at Kumhrar in Patna on Monday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh

Patna: The Bharat Bandh called by the Congress and supported by several Opposition parties, including the RJD, Hindustani Awam Morcha Secular (HAMS), Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) and the Left, against the skyrocketing prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas started in the right earnest in Bihar on Monday, but soon degenerated into hooliganism, vandalism, arson as rowdy elements ravaged roads and streets across the state to disrupt normal life.

Armed with sticks and bamboo poles, the hoodlums did not spare anybody - not even doctors rushing to hospitals, ill people being transported in ambulances, travellers, commuters, or vendors - assaulting them, chasing them away or just keeping them waiting and pleading at makeshift barricades and piles of burning tyres. The scenes were repeated from Patna to distant districts.

Windscreens and window panes of automobiles were smashed, and those who resisted the assault were pushed, shoved and beaten up. All this started in the morning and continued till afternoon during the six-hour bandh call. The police presence was thin at many places, including Patna, which witnessed violence.

Additional director-general (ADG) S.K. Singhal said that preventive arrests of 678 persons, including 219 in Patna, 141 in Nalanda and 61 in Aurangabad districts, were made during the bandh.

"Reports from districts are still coming in and the number of people arrested may increase. Road blockades have been reported from several districts, including Patna, Vaishali, Bhojpur, Begusarai, Kaimur, Darbhanga, Saran and Jehanabad. At present we have no information about any FIR being lodged related to the bandh, but it will be registered against those who have taken the law in their own hands," Singhal said.

Congress MLA from Kutumba constituency Rajesh Kumar and 40 others were detained at Jakkanpur police station, while five workers of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) were arrested and taken to the Gandhi Maidan police station.

Congress workers in their khadi clothes, Gandhi cap and party flags had started the day peacefully by marching on the main thoroughfares at various district and block headquarters. They squatted at the busiest traffic intersections and national highways, and also blocked railway tracks.

However, soon RJD and JAP supporters took over the protest and started showing brute muscle power. They pelted stones on the Buxar-Patna passenger train near Bihta in Patna district. Many passengers suffered injuries, albeit minor ones, in the incident as they quickly closed the doors and downed the windows.

"The train suddenly halted near Bihta and a hail of stones hit it. We all were terrified and somehow managed to close the doors and windows quickly. Still, a few passengers were hit and suffered some injuries," Sonu Kumar, who was travelling in the train with his wife, said.

In Gaya, the bandh brought city life to a standstill as all private schools and business establishments remained closed. Banks were open and went about their normal business, but vehicles remained off the roads. The auto-rickshaw drivers' union supported the bandh and stopped plying their vehicles, putting the commuters to much hardship.

Bandh supporters disrupted the movement of trains on the Kiul-Gaya and Patna-Gaya sections leading to late running of several trains. Many of them remained stranded for more than two hours on Kiul - Gaya section.

Pilgrims arriving from Haj at the Gaya airport in the morning had to wait till 3pm, the end of bandh.

Haj coordinator Abdul Moqsit Karimi said the pilgrims were advised not to move before 3pm in view of the Bharat bandh. Special buses carrying them left Gaya airport after 3pm under police escort.

The strike was successful in Munger with the public participation. Shops and business establishments remained closed while train and road traffic were brought to a standstill.

Darbhanga, Samastipur, Madhubani, Araria, Nalanda, Nawada, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Vaishali, Saran, Aurangabad, Rohtas, Buxar and Bhojpur were the worst affected districts.

The Congress, RJD and other parties claimed the bandh to be completely successful and said that it was a result of spontaneous support of the public.

However, JDU, BJP and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) claimed that the bandh was a show of frustration and provided a glimpse of the 'jungle raj' that prevailed in Bihar between 1990 and 2005.

Asked about rampant violence during the bandh, Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) president in-charge Kaukab Quadri said that it was a result of "BJP conspiracy through its workers and Pappu Yadav's Jan Adhikar Party".

RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav too termed Pappu as "an agent of BJP, whose supporters indulged in violence and vandalism".