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Communalism

Bihar: 70-Year-Old Man, Minor Arrested After Communal Clashes Erupt During Mahavir Akhara Rally

The members of the procession, which was passing by a mosque, comprised of saffron-clad men, who were reportedly armed with sticks and chanted communal slogans.

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New Delhi: Communal clashes erupted during a Mahavir Akhara procession in Bihar’s Siwan district on Thursday, September 10, after which a 70-year-old man and a minor were arrested by the police.

The members of the procession, which was passing by a mosque, comprised of saffron-clad men, who were reportedly armed with sticks and chanted communal slogans. This allegedly led to stone pelting in the Purani Bazar area of Barharia town.

Sources told The Wire that a small shop was set on fire by the members of the rally.

The videos accessed by The Wire show Hindutva workers pelting stones and vandalising the houses of Muslims. However, it’s not clear which right-wing organisations they belong to.

According to reports, the 70-year-old man and the minor have not been released yet.

According to the Times of India, the Siwan Police have lodged a first information report (FIR) against 35 people – 25 Muslims and 10 Hindus, and arrested 20 people in connection with the incident.

The FIR accessed by The Wire has been registered under Indian Penal Code sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with a deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 188 (disobedience to order), 296 (disturbing religious assembly), 337 (causing hurt), 338 (causing grievous hurt), 435 (mischief with intent of damage), 427 (mischief with substance),  505 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (assault, use of criminal force) and section 120B (party to criminal conspiracy).

A copy of the FIR accessed by The Wire.

Speaking to The Wire, a resident, Farooq*, said, “On Thursday [September 8] evening, during the Asr prayers, a Mahavir Akhara rally passed by the mosque. The people were armed with sticks and chanting communal slurs. Some shops around the area were vandalised with lathis and the same happened with the mosque. After this, stone pelting ensued from both sides.”

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He added, “Essentially this is an administrative failure, the area has always been sensitive. The Mahavir Akhara took out a rally four days ago too, however, police were present at that time, so nothing like this happened. Moreover, some Muslims of the region have also asked the police to beef up security, since the area is ‘communally sensitive’. However, only two chowkidars and a junior police officer were assigned.”

He further said that the police have arrested some innocent people, including those who were simply there to offer prayers.

The family of the 70-year-old man and the minor, who were arrested by the police after the clashes broke out, say they are innocent and had nothing to do with the clashes.

The Wire reached out to Shailesh Kumar Sinha, superintendent of police (SP), Siwan, who refused to comment on the matter.

Prem Chand, the magistrate, who is also a complainant in the FIR, told The Wire, “I was made the Dand Adhikari (magistrate) of the region for a day so I filed the complaint. Stone pelting took place in front of the mosque, and when the Akhara reached the region [Purani Bazar area] from the mosque. After this, the administration dealt with the situation as a clash ensued. A shop was also damaged during stone pelting.”

Farooq* said that after the clashes, the police had held a meeting between both the communities to ensure peace in the region. However, the atmosphere is still largely tense. “People are scared to speak up against the administration. Those affected are feeling pressured by the system, they are saying that they have been told not to speak up,” he added.

*The name has been changed to protect the identity of the person.