Thousands of villagers armed with traditional weapons offered ‘shramdaan’ and volunteered as labourers in order to construct the Bhajanpur-Sheetalpur road at Forbesganj, Bihar, on 16 August. This is a victory for the people’s struggle, which has braved the severest repression and communal encirclement.
This public road, which has been in existence for the past 60 years or so, connects the Bhajanpur village (mainly inhabited by 1000 families of the minority community), to the Karbala, Idgah, hospital and local bazaar. Last year, on June 3, police fired on a demonstration by local people protesting against this same public road being blocked off for a private factory owned by the BJP MLC’s son. The factory itself was being constructed on BIADA land that had been illegally allotted. Police not only fired on unarmed protestors, they also jumped viciously on fallen bodies, displaying communal hatred. Four people - Mustafa Ansari, Mukhtar Ansari, Sajmin Khatoon and 8-month old Naushad – were killed in the police brutality.
A whole year has passed – but the people of Forbesganj are yet to get justice. The one-man enquiry commission has barely taken off the ground. Following the firing, the villagers had already constructed the road once last year at the time of Ramzan. But under pressure from above, the road was again destroyed. And the road continued to remain destroyed in spite of repeated appeals to the local administration. Recently, even the Home Secretary was approached, but the Government and administration did not act. Faced with a Government that obstinately closed its ears to pleas for restoration of the road, the villagers decided to construct the road on their own.
Id was approaching, and this road was needed for the villagers to approach the Idgah. Because of the condition of the road, they were even unable to reach the Masjid, though it was the month of Ramzan.
The construction of the road took place in the presence of the large gathering of adivasis and minorities, as well as CPI(ML) central committee member and former MP Rameshwar Prasad, State Committee member and former MLA Mahboob Alam, State Committee member Pankaj Singh, as well as other CPI(ML) leaders and activists.
Addressing the mass meeting following the construction of the road, CPI(ML) leaders observed that the Bhajanpur-Sheetalpur road was not part of BIADA land, and had been forcibly grabbed by the local MLC Ashok Agrawal from the BJP. Yet, the Government had taken no action against the MLC and had instead unleashed repression on the villagers protesting the grabbing of a public road. Keeping a public road in a deliberate state of disrepair and destruction is in itself illegal, since the Government has not acquired the land on which the road stands. There is nothing illegal, in such circumstances, in constructing a public road. It is the Government which is upholding an illegal act of encroachment and land grab, under pressure from corrupt, communal, and powerful local politicians. The CPI(ML) leaders demanded that in public interest, the Government ought, in fact, to make the newly constructed road pucca without delay. Following the mass meeting, a victory procession marched from Bhajanpur through the main road of Forbesganj up to the railway station.
The BJP and Sangh Parivar are making all efforts to incite communal frenzy in the Araria district, in the name of preparing for ‘Mahaviri Jhanda’ to coincide with Id on 19 August. Local BJP and JD(U) leaders like Ashok Agrawal and Moolchand Golccha are terrorising the witnesses of the Forbesganj firing. 12-year-old Talmun Khatun, who got a bullet in her back in the firing, was due to stand witness before the enquiry commission on 18 July. But the BJP-JD(U) leaders threatened her father Mohd.Zaheer Ansari, warning against her giving evidence. Though Talmun Khatun did reach Araria, intending to give evidence, Ashok Agrawal and his goons chased her away. The Government, instead of ensuring protection for the witnesses, is protecting Ashok Agrawal and Moolchand Golccha. Ashok Agrawal has been arrested on charges of murdering his employee, but he is yet to be prosecuted on the murder charges relating to the Forbesganj firing, which took place at his instigation. The Court is yet to take cognisance of the case.
The CPI(ML) has demanded that the judicial enquiry commission should hold hearings in Bhajanpur rather than Araria, so as to ensure greater security for the witnesses.