With the Modi Government in power, and now emboldened by its backdoor entry into power in Bihar, the BJP is trying to intensify its communal fascist offensive in the state. Here are some of the incidents from Bhojpur in the past couple of years.
Ranisagar has never the largest Muslim population in the District and has been marked by the BJP as one which had always voted for non-BJP parties. In 2005 the BJP won the Shahpur seat by fielding a dominant caste criminal named Vishveshwar Ojha. From then on, this village which had always voted non-BJP (mainly RJD) was dubbed ‘Mini Pakistan’ by the BJP.
After being defeated in the 2015 Assembly election, the BJP renewed its hate campaign with a new project over one pretext or another. Following some such incidents in July 2016 Central Minister Giriraj Singh toured the place and made the inflammatory statement that Ranisagar would be turned into ‘Kairana’ (the town in Western UP where the BJP falsely alleged that Hindus were being evicted by Muslims).
There are 5 licensed slaughter-houses in Bhojpur district: at Ara, Piro, Jagdishpur, Sahar, and Ranisagar. The slaughter-house at Ranisagar is the oldest from where meat is traded outside Bihar also. In August 2017, BJP and Bajrang Dal members stopped the truck of Madari Khan who runs the slaughter-house, and badly beat up the driver, a trader, and Madari Khan himself. Their intention was to kill all three, but the police got the information and came and saved the lives of these three. ‘Gau Rakshak’ leader Thakur Ram who traded in liquor and other illicit businesses used to have business dealings with Madari Khan. When there was a business dispute with Madari Khan, Thakur Ram gathered Bajrang Dal goons and conspired to have Madari’s truck stopped and the three people beaten with the intention of killing them. Madari repeatedly said that the meat in the truck was buffalo meat and not cow’s meat, and moreover he had a license to sell this meat, but he was arrested and sent to jail.
The day after this incident a CPI(ML) enquiry team led by Com Sudama Prasad (Tarari MLA), Com Raju Yadav and Com Ajit Kushwaha and local leaders went to the spot. As soon as the team reached, many people of the village gathered around them. The team appealed to the people to live together peacefully and amicably and fight jointly for their rights. RJD leaders who boast of the ‘BJP Bhagao’ (Drive Out BJP) slogan did not come there at all.
The Muharram and Durga immersion processions fell on the same day (12 October) at Piro. The riot-hungry BJP goons always lie in wait for such an opportunity. The locals had met the administration and expressed fears that trouble would be fomented, and had demanded that separate timings be given to both processions. Despite timings being fixed, the Durga immersion procession was deliberately delayed; and for the first time, swords were brandished in large numbers at the procession. However, this procession went off peacefully, with Muslim youth helping to keep the peace. In the evening when the Taziya procession started, darkness was setting in. The procession had proceeded only a short distance when bricks and stones began to be pelted. Taking advantage of the ensuing stampede the miscreants fired shots injuring one person, Nandu Miyan. At that time hundreds of police personnel and several police officers were present at the spot. The Taziya procession could not proceed further and it was stopped there.
Overnight, the BJP propaganda machine spread the rumour that many Hindus had been killed at Piro. The same night many vehicles and shops of Muslims were set afire. The next morning the local MLA Comrade Sudama Prasad of CPI(ML) and former MLA Comrade Chandradeep Singh, Raju Yadav, along with about a dozen citizens, took initiatives. They went house to house meeting people from both communities and appealed to the people not to be misled by false propaganda. The District SP, Zonal IG and DIG had also reached the place. At 3 in the afternoon the administration called a meeting of the peace committee. But so far not even one of the attackers had been arrested, and the Muslim committee did not attend the meeting on this ground. A large number of BJP leaders and RJD and JD (U) MLAs from the district were present at the meeting as ‘leaders of the Hindu community’. When it was falsely said at the meeting that the Taziya procession was raising anti-India slogans, Com Sudama Prasad refuted this accusation and cited the police personnel accompanying the procession as witnesses. After this the RJD, JD (U) and Congress representatives joined the BJP in creating a ruckus and even tried to beat up Comrade Sudama Prasad.
The rioters’ morale was boosted by the failure to arrest the attackers of the Taziya procession. The next day, armed with lathis, sticks and iron rods, they entered trains plying between Ara and Sasaram, sought out Muslim passengers and beat them up. Sikarhata village (Tarari Block) residents Shamim Ansari (60), his nephew Nasim Ansari (30) and Kaimur resident Khalil Sah (55) travelling to Ara, were found in grievously injured condition.
The false rumour was also being deliberately spread that Muslims had attacked dalit Tolas in the neighbourhood of Piro. A minor dispute between a Muslim woman and a dalit woman (and the male members of their families) on the issue of a deposit in NGO-run Bandhan Bank at Baluan Tola in Piro was propagated as an attack on dalits by Muslims and firing was started from all sides. Only after this did the police start apprehending the rumour-mongers, clamp curfew in Piro and shut mobile networks for 3 days; the situation then slowly limped back to normal.
In 2017 also, anticipating communal tension over the Dussehra and Taziya processions, we organized a huge Lathi March on 28 September under the banner of the Bhagat Singh Yuva Brigade in which more than 200 Hindu and Muslim youths participated. As a result of this precaution the Dussehra and Taziya processions went off peacefully.
Just before elections to the Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) there were riots in Sahar on 25 October 2016 in which Khadaon village resident Vimal Mauar (former Ranveer Sena leader and BJP Block President), Madhukar Sao, Vimal Sao and other BJP leaders played the chief role. Avgeela village adjoins Sahar Bazaar. The practice of Laxmi Puja has been started here for the past few years and a religious procession is held - though there is no such tradition. This time the route of the procession was deliberately changed to go through the area with a Muslim population. After the Muslim community complained and expressed their misgivings, the police banned the procession from using that route.
After that, Brijendra Yadav (former RJD MLA, Sandesh), and Sunil Pandey (former JD (U) MLA from Piro) reached the place and led BJP goons who burnt and looted 32 shops on the roadside in the presence of the local DSP. This incident spanned two whole hours from 9 PM to 11 PM.
Bajrang Dal-BJP members calling themselves ‘Gau rakshaks’ spread the rumour that a Muslim family had killed a cow and stored its meat in their home; they surrounded this family’s house from all 4 sides and started inciting the assembled crowd to burn down the house and kill the entire family. CPI(ML) leaders who reached the spot immediately informed the police. The police arrived – but collected samples of meat from the house and took two adult family members to the thana. The charge of cow-killing proved to be a false and mischievous rumour.
Someone removed the Bajrang dal banner put up at the Durga Puja Pandal. Bajrang Dal members accused the person who fitted the mike at the Pandal, Aslam, of removing the banner. Many people armed with lathis and sticks caught him in the morning with the intention of beating him up but he phoned the Durga Puja Committee President Pappu Yadav and requested him to come and save him. Aslam’s life was saved when Pappu Yadav came and told them that it was he (Pappu) who had removed the banner.
Some days ago there was a clash between youths of the Muslim and Yadav communities during a football match here. The Rajputs, supporter-activists of the BJP, are always on the look-out for escalating tension between the Muslims and Yadavs. They came stealthily and broke the dome of the Muslim Idgah. The local residents took initiative and repaired the damaged dome.
Kayamnagar is a village situated by the side of the Patna-Ara National Highway. A Chatti Bazaar is held on the roadside here, where neighbouring farmers come to sell their vegetables. Recently the matter of some person regularly urinating at the Shiva temple came to light. BJP members conspired to inflame communal passions by saying that a Muslim person was the culprit. People from the Muslim community along with local CPI(ML) activists took the initiative to suggest that instead of spreading rumours, the culprit should be caught red-handed. When arrangements were made to watch the temple, the truth came out that it was the priest’s son who was regularly urinating in the place! After this incident, BJP and Bajrang Dal people started saying that the priest’s son is mentally deranged.
In a conspiracy, pieces of meat were thrown on the roadside on the occasion of Bakrid at Valiganj Mohalla in Ara city. After that rumours were spread that it was cow’s meat (beef). During the Dussehra procession in Ara city, lumpen youths armed with swords and daggers entered Muslim Mohallas and created a ruckus with the aim of inciting the Muslim community. An incident of trying to beat up people at Gopali Chowk at the Taziya during Moharram also came to light.
Apart from the above incidents, there is a long list of other attempts to foment communal tension in other places also. Hindus and Muslims have been living together in amity and harmony for years in cities, towns and villages of the district, but the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to create a communal divide in order to create and consolidate a “Hindu” vote bank.
As part of the politics of communal polarization a ‘Mahayagya’ named Vishwa Hindu Sammelan was organized at Ara from 30 September to 5 October. The controversial Hindu Baba Jiyarswami was the organizer of this Yagya. The Yagya was at the cost of Rs 200 crores and was attended by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, leader of BJP Legislative Party and Deputy CM of Bihar Sushil Modi, and CM Nitish Kumar. BJP leaders such as Rajya Sabha MP RK Sinha (of Panama Papers notoriety) contributed huge amounts of black money for the organization of the Yagya. The poor, and especially women from poor homes, attended the Yagya in large numbers. This is a huge initiative by the Sangh Parivar in the conspiracy to co-opt Dalits and the poor in their anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of Hindu unity. The BJP-RSS is now running a drive to organize Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal in the villages. Their emphasis is on ensuring the participation of Dalits, Mahadalits, very backward castes and Yadavs and keeping them in the forefront.
The activities of the Ranveer Sena are no longer prevalent in the old form. All their main leaders from the old days are now prominent BJP leaders: Devendra Singh from Tirthkaul (Sandesh), Vimal Mauar from Khuntahan (Tarari) and Neelnidhi Singh from Kurkuri (Tarari) are prominent among them. They can be seen in hundreds at the village-panchayat level.
All the big criminals and dominant forces in the district are with the BJP today. All the groups and gangs with influence over dominant, forward castes and feudal powers (Brahmin-Bhumihar-Rajput) in the district are with the BJP today: the group led by Bhuvar Ojha (husband of former MLA Munni Devi) and elder brother Visheshwar Ojha (who was killed) in Shahpur; the Badhara gang led by Surendra Singh, husband of former MLA Asha Devi; the gang led by former Tarari-Piro MLA Sunil Pandey. Some of the dominant people of backward and very backward castes (such as Hakim Prasad of the Baniya community) have also joined the BJP.
On 6 November 2017 the guard at Saraswati Shishu Mandir in Bahiyara village, Koilvar Block attempted to rape a dalit girl child who had gone for defecation. He shot and injured the girl. Later the guard also beat up with the butt of his rifle the girl’s uncle and elder sister who reached the spot. This school is owned by billionaire BJP Rajya Sabha MP RK Sinha and is built on forcibly captured government land allotted to dalits. RK Sinha’s name also appears in the Paradise Papers leak. During his Ara visit Mohan Bhagwat had stayed at Sinha’s house. A lout from the Rajput caste had also attempted to rape a dalit girl child at Joga Kharaicha village in Sahar. At Karath (Tarari) the matter of brick-kiln owner BJP leader committing a ‘human sacrifice’ murder came to light. On 17 January last, feudal criminals shot and killed newspaper vendor Yogendra Prasad Tatwan at Karnamepur in Shahpur. Three months earlier his cousin brother had also been murdered.
Despite having 5 MLAs in the district RJD leaders show no capacity to fight the communal drive of the Sangh-BJP, not going beyond posturing. They do not do much to fight the impact of communal hate campaigns in their own base also. Sometimes it is the RJD support base or their own leaders who emerge as leaders in riots, as was seen in the Piro incidents. Nitish Kumar has remained silent on these incidents. Local RJD MLA Rahul Tiwari has also maintained silence. On each occasion above, it was the CPI(ML), its mass organisations and elected representatives who intervened on the ground.
We decided to carry out an anti-communal campaign after the BJP-RSS escalated its attempts at rousing communal frenzy following Nitish Kumar’s betrayal of the people’s mandate and the BJP coming back into government. From 11 to 14 August 2017 an anti-communal rally was taken out through all the Chatti-Bazaars and Hindu-Muslim populated villages of the district. The meetings during the rally pointed out the need to stand together and fight Nitish Kumar’s treachery and BJP’s hateful divisive tactics. The meetings also appealed to the people to beware of the double-faced character of the RJD. The rally rested for the night at the Muslim Tolas at Avgilla in Sahar and Dawan in Jagdishpur where youth meetings were held. On 19 August an anti-communal symposium was organized at Ara Nagri Pracharini Hall.
These anti-communal interventions are of course accompanied by vigorous mass movements on the issues of homestead land and education. Land satyagrahas were organized at all 14 Blocks in the district, submitting claims for homestead land. Under pressure from the people’s protests the administration has been forced to start the work of measurement for land for homes at many places.
Roadside schools (Sadak par School) have been successfully organized at Agiaon, Gadhani, Charpokhri, Narayanpur, Baruna, Azimabad and other places. School children and their guardians joined in large numbers in this campaign organized under the leadership of AISA and RYA. This campaign, exposing shortcomings of government schools where most children of the poor study—severe lack of teachers, school buildings, text-books, toilets and the insensitive attitude of the government towards these needs—is receiving a considerable amount of people’s support.
184 farmers’ organizations from across the country under the forum ‘Rashtriya Kisan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti’ organized a countrywide Kisan Mukti Yatra in protest against the anti-farmer policies of the Central and State governments. When the Yatra reached Bhojpur on 3 November the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) organised a huge farmers’ rally at Piro, in which more than 5,000 farmers participated – and this rally also raised a very powerful voice against the BJP-RSS attempts at spreading communal poison in Piro. 400 farmers from the district participated in the Kisan Sansad at Delhi.
Foiling ‘Kalash Yatra’ Aimed At Communalising Dalits
All over Bihar, the BJP is trying to organize ‘kalash yatras’ (processions in which young girls from Dalit families drape chunris (scarves) and walk carrying kalash (religious urns) on their heads as a pretext for provoking communal tensions between Dalits and Muslims.
Note that Dalits are forced to live in hamlets outside the caste-Hindu villages, and it is Muslim hamlets that are their neighbours. Remember – at Bathani Tola in 1996, when Muslims were evicted from land and homes by Ranveer Sena, they took shelter in the homes of Dalits – and both communities were massacred by the Ranveer Sena.
On the banks of the Bagmati river at Darbhanga, Saraiyya-Ratanpura is a village with a considerable Muslim population, surrounded by hamlets of Dalit and backward castes. The land for the Dalits' temple had been bought at a low price from Muslims. BJP President of the Hanuman Nagar block as well as the local priest Upendra Giri were involved in a conspiracy to provoke violence by flinging meat into the temple and blaming it on Muslims. The BJP then announced a 'Navaah' religious event on 16 January preceded by ‘kalash yatra’ of Dalit girls on 11 January right through the centre of the Muslim population, as a pretext for communal tension. CPI(ML) leaflets exposed the BJP ploy, asking why it was Dalit girls – and not girls from the upper caste households – whom the BJP expected to parade with the ‘kalash’? Why was the BJP not interested instead in ensuring that Dalit girls could go safely to school – Dika Kumari in neighbouring Muzaffarpur was killed in a school for Dalit girls! The CPI(ML) held a dharna at the SSP’s office demanding that the BJP President of the Hanuman Nagar block as well as the local priest Upendra Giri be arrested for their communally provocative hate speech and attempts to foment violence. As a result of this effective campaign, only 51 girls participated in the 11 January kalash yatra. Irked by this flop show, the BJP State President led a cavalcade of cars to the Navaah event on 16 January, raising anti-Muslim slogans. But the Dalit community, seeing through the ploy, boycotted the Navaah event and snubbed BJP and Rai - not a single home even offered the BJP leaders water!
On 30 January, on the CPI(ML)’s initiative, a Dalit-Muslim Unity Conference was held at Saraiyya-Ratanpura Haat, which saw a very enthusiastic participation, reflecting people’s resolve to rebuff the communal divisive politics.