Union home minister Amit Shah was forced to cancel his tour of Sasaram in Bihar due to prohibitory orders following communal tension during Ram Navami festivities. But the administration denied the imposition of Section 144 in the city. The BJP’s decision to cancel the visit points to “rumours” spread by the media.
According to Rohtas district magistrate Dharmendra Kumar and superintendent of police Vineet Kumar, Section 144 was never imposed in Sasaram. But the BJP still went ahead and cancelled Shah’s event scheduled for April 2.
“Forces are deployed at sensitive points. Sadbhawana march has been conducted, in which people from both communities took part. Things are coming back to normal, shops are reopening. We are doing a flag march and we haven’t come across any untoward incident. Internet services are shut till further orders. We are analysing the losses. Section 144 is not imposed anywhere, it’s just a rumour,” said Kumar.
CNN-News18 confirmed that Section 144 was not imposed in any part of Sasaram city and media reports could have played a role in cancellation of Shah’s visit to the city. However, the home minister will still be addressing a public gathering at Hisua in Nawada district on Sunday.
The ruling party and the opposition are both engaged in a war of words over the violence in Nalanda and Sasaram on Ram Navami, with state BJP president Samrat Choudhary accusing the Nitish Kumar-led government of stalling Shah from conducting a public event in Sasaram “by imposing prohibitory orders under Section 144”.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Choudhary squarely blamed the state government in Bihar for the cancellation of the function at Sasaram, which had been organised to celebrate the birth anniversary of Ashoka the emperor.
“It is clear that Nitish Kumar is not in control of the administration. Even Bihar Sharif, which falls in the chief minister’s home district of Nalanda, is in turmoil. So are many other parts of the state,” alleged Choudhary.
He added: “The imposition of Section 144 of CrPC in Sasaram is a clear indication that no large gatherings can take place. Hence, the honourable home minister has cancelled his visit to the town for Samrat Ashok’s birth anniversary celebrations.”
The BJP has repeatedly hit out at the ruling party after Nitish Kumar dumped the saffron party last year.
Shah arrived in Patna on Saturday evening and is expected to put up at a city hotel and hold parleys with party office-bearers. The home minister may also hold a meeting with administrative officials to get a feel of the situation on the ground.
Tight security arrangements are in place for the tour and besides security personnel, drones have been pressed into service at places Shah is expected to visit before boarding his return flight on Sunday afternoon.
Responding to the situation, Nitish said: “We have brought the situation under control and asked for investigation. We are on alert. Action will be taken against those involved. For years, everything was going well in Bihar; what happened all of a sudden? It’s not a natural thing, surely someone is behind all this.”
Asked about Shah’s programme being cancelled, Nitish said, “I don’t know about this… it’s wrong to accuse the state government. Full security is given on the arrival of any minister, we always take care of this.”
Arson and stone pelting were reported in Gola Bazar in Sasaram city. The atmosphere was tense in areas such as Gola Bazar, Kadirganj, Mubarakganj, Chaukhandi and Navratna Bazar, which have been closed to the public.
According to the local residents, the Ram Navami procession had come to an end in the area. Meanwhile, some people set the pandal on fire and the atmosphere deteriorated in no time. Two groups started a scuffle even as several vehicles and shops were vandalised as well as torched.
A large number of police personnel soon reached the spot and handled the situation. At present, police force has been deployed in every nook and corner in the area. The situation is under control.
“Several shops and vehicles have been torched or vandalised in areas like Shahajalal Pir, Sona Patti, Qadir Ganj and Navratna Pir where angry mobs also indulged in stone-pelting, injuring many people, including two police personnel,” said the sub-divisional magistrate.
A ruckus broke out on March 31 between two groups near Gagan Diwan under Laheri police station area in Nalanda. A shobha yatra was being carried out from Hospital Road to Baba Maniram Ka Akhada. At least 20,000 workers of Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) were present during the procession.
According to local sources, when the procession reached Kanta area, miscreants started throwing stones from rooftops that led to a stampede-like situation followed by clashes. Half a dozen vehicles were set ablaze and a madrasa was also torched later in the night. Earlier, police were outnumbered and miscreants were on a rampage. Later, hundreds of police and administration forces were deployed at the spot to control the situation.
Police have also restricted gatherings of four or more persons under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure after the clashes on Friday left 11 hurt, including three with bullet injuries, as well as several vehicles and shops gutted. Bihar police, in a communique, has confirmed 27 arrests so far.
On Ram Navami, the idol of Ram was installed in the Kali temple located at Kharik Bazar in Bhagalpur. Later in the night, village residents had taken the idol on the chariot to the ghat for immersion. The procession was pelted with stones from the top of a mosque as it was returning after the immersion. Eyewitnesses who were part of the procession said when they were returning, stones started raining on them.
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