BeyondHeadlines Special Correspondent
Forbesganj (Araria): All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Rahul Gandhi yesterday visited Bhajanpur Village in Forbesganj in Araria District of Bihar and met the kith and kins of poor Muslims whose dear-ones were killed or injured in a police firing on June 3. He assured them justice and better medical treatment.
He asked State Congress President Choudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser to bring the injured boy Md Rashid Ansari to New Delhi for treatment.
Rahul’s two-hour-long visit to the village of Bihar’s poverty-stricken Araria District was termed by the state’s ruling coalition government of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a delayed and politically motivated act that would yield no gains for the Congress party. But considering the fact that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has not so far visited Forbesganj and met the victims’ kin, the Congress party and other opposition parties hinted at intensifying their attacks on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
Clad in his trademark white kurta-pyjama and black slippers, the Amethi MP later Rahul landed at the Chunapur defence aerodrome near Purnia and straightway drove to the house of Fatkan Ansari, whose 20-year-old son Mustafa was among the victims. With tears in his eyes, Mustafa’s elder brother Kapil Ansari narrated how his unarmed brother was shot and how a heartless policeman later stomped on him in full public view, leading to his death.
Sitting in a plastic chair in the front yard of a house, Rahul keenly heard the relatives of the four people killed, including a pregnant woman and a six-month-old infant, in the police firing narrate their grievances. An apparently contemplative Rahul asked questions of the victims quite a few times and turned to a Congress leader seated beside him for interpretation of phrases in the local dialect spoken by the aggrieved people.
The Congress party youth icon, accompanied by Ali Kaiser, then visited the homes of the nine people who were injured in the firing and promised them help with better medical treatment. After meeting seven-year-old Manzoor Ansari, who received bullet injuries on parts of his face, Rahul asked his mother, Phulia Khatoon, to prepare for the boy to be brought to Delhi and asked Kaiser to make the necessary arrangements.
Rahul also applied balm on the wounds of Rafique Ansari whose 10-month-old grandson Naushad was killed in the firing. He also walked to the home of Mohd Farooq Ansari whose pregnant wife Shahjabeen Khatoon was among the victims.
During his visit, Rahul did not give much time to the factory employees who lined up on the route carrying placards that read, “Mr Gandhi, listen to us.” “I don’t have much time. E-mail me your grievances,” Rahul was quoted as having told them by one of the employees, Lalit Agrawal.
The gruesome incident took place as the locals were protesting construction of a starch factory in the area on the government acquired land. The upcoming factory had raised a wall which blocked only approach road of the village Bhajanpur to outside world. To register their protest the locals on Jun3 assembled at the place where the wall was being raised. During the demonstration police without warning opened the fire on the villagers. As a result 4 members of a minority community were killed and 30 others injured including a 6-month-old infant and a pregnant woman.
The state authorities claimed that the villagers were forcibly demolishing the wall. BJP politician Sushil Kumar Modi had earlier visited the area to lend support colleague BJP leader connected with upcoming factory.
A video showed a police man jumping over the head a protestor. The policeman was later arrested and charged with murder. In other case when a dead body was received for post mortem, it was found that the man was still alive.
Last week, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had sent a team of party leaders to console and offer relief amount among the victims. The party has given Rs 1 lakh each to the family of the deceased and Rs 25,000 each to the injured. The Congress Party is continuously demanding CBI probe into the firing.
Realizing police highhandedness in the case, CM Nitish Kumar ordered a judicial probe but surprising many he neither suspended any police officer nor did announce compensation for the victims.
Families of the dead victims visited Delhi and met the national press on Saturday 18 June. Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD, a non governmental organisation, accompanied them. A video played at the Press Meet showed Bihar police committing unjustified brutalities on the villagers.
On June 21 National Commission for Minorities Chairperson Wajahat Habibullah also visited the village and denounced the police action. He felt that the issue could have been resolved without the use of force. The Forbesganj police firing was wholly unjustified and could have been avoided, he said.
The incident has severely hit the popularity of Nitish Kumar. He has lost credibility amongst Muslims and his façade of giving clean administration to the Bihar state.