BeyondHeadlines Staff Reporter
New Delhi: Rights activists, journalists, students and educationists organized a protest outside Bihar House in the national capital against the police firing on poor villagers in Forbesganj municipality in Araria District, Bihar.
On June 3, Bihar Police had opened fire at a group of people who were protesting the blocking of a road because of an upcoming factory in Bhajanpur village. Five people, including a pregnant woman and a six-month-old baby, were killed while nine others were injured.
[cincopa AgKAArKyPY8t]About a hundred people, under the banner of Committee for Justice to Victims of Forbesganj Firing (CJVFF), gathered outside Bihar Bhawan in central Delhi and demanded justice for the victims. The CJVFF is a group of human rights activists, journalists, students and educationists. Other groups, including Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA), All India Students Association (AISA) and Mazdoor Bigul Dasta, also joined the protest.
Addressing the gathering, CJVFF Convener Mehtab Alam said: “Five people, including a pregnant woman and a six-month-old baby, were killed while nine others were injured in the incident.”
He said that they would approach the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the National Commission for Women (NCW).
The protesters condemned the police brutalities in strong words and the failure of the state government in punishing the guilty while chanting slogans, “bol re saathi halla bol, Nitish prashasan par halla bol.”
They demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for those who have been killed as proposed in the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill to each family along with government service to one of the dependents, 1 lakh for the injured, judicial time-bound probe into the entire incident by a sitting judge of the high court, immediate suspension of all the police personnel involved in the case and registration of a first information report (FIR) against them under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code.
Talking to BeyondHeadlines, noted civil rights activist Shabnam Hashmi said that the whole incident was pre-planned and designed by the Nitish-led coalition Government of Bihar, of which Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is an alliance partner.
Justifying her claim, she said: “On May 29, BJP legislator Sushil Kumar Modi, who is also deputy chief minister of the state, had come to Forbesganj and had exerted pressure on the district administration to take immediate action regarding the village road and block it.”
She said: “On June 8, when we visited the site of the incident, we found the people still scared and not ready to speak as they were constantly threatened by the police officials of bearing consequences if they dared to speak out.” She further said, “The killings at Forbesganj expose the self- portrayed image of Nitish Kumar of being pro-minorities and people- friendly.”
“The villagers proposed the authorities concerned that erect the wall but not block the road as that is the shortest road to connect the market,” Shabnam told BH.
She, with a fact finding team has recently visited the area on behalf of her organization ANHAD and released a detailed report based on interviews with victims, their families, group meetings with villagers and visit to the site of firing and the Forbesganj Industrial Area.
When asked what were the circumstances that forced the police to open fire on the protesters, she replied: “There was nothing out of control. It was pre-planned. If the crowd was becoming violent, it could have been controlled by lathicharge, water cannon, tear gas shells, rubber bullets and in extreme case, knee shots. Why bullets were fired on the skulls.”
“Sunil Kumar Yadav jumped on the face, body of Mohd Mustafa Ansari (18), who got 4 bullets of the police when he was returning from his shop. He was even hit hard by the Yadav and the irony is that everything happened before Garima Mallik, superintendent of police, Araria,” said Shabnam.
Expressive his anger, Naved Hamid, member of National Integration Council, said that BJP in the state is following the policy “vote or not vote, deal with Muslims brutally.”
Manisha Sethi, president, JTSA, said, “If our demands are not fulfilled, we will further intensify the campaign” adding “this is just a beginning”.
She said that “we demand a time-bound judicial probe by a sitting judge of the high court, immediate suspension of the guilty police official and adequate compensation to the victims.”
When BeyondHeadlines contacted BJP national spokesperson Prakash Javedkar to comment on the issue, he rudely denied making any comment. When asked that the BJP raised so much hue and cry on the police crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s camp at Delhi’s Ramlila Ground but why the party is silent on similar kind of incident that took place in Forbesganj, he replied “our state spokesperson will comment on this issue, I cannot,” and he hung up the call although he is the national spokesperson of the party and authorized to comment on overall functioning of the party across the country.
Talking to BeyondHeadlines, Bihar Home Secretary Amir Subhani said: “The government has already order a probe and at this moment, I will not speak to the media. Whatever I have to say, I will say before the inquiry commission.”
Almost the same statement was echoed by Araria SP Garima Mallik. She said: “Whatever the police did, it did seeing sensitivity of the situation. Whatever are being reported are blame game only. Everything will come out once the investigation is over. I have no comment at this stage.”
Later, a three member delegation comprising Manisha Sethi, Mahtab Alam and Manasi Sharma met Akhlaq Ahmad, officiating resident commissioner of Bihar in Delhi. Ahmed ensured the delegation that the demands would be immediately conveyed to the chief secretary of the Bihar Government and will inform the delegation about the progress.
Additional reporting by Afroz Alam Sahil