Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times
Patna: Celebratory firing continues to claim lives of people in Bihar. Vijay Kumar and Manoj Shah alias Bittu were killed during celebratory firing at wedding ceremonies in the state in separate incidents within a week. These latest killings took place despite the fact that celebratory firing was banned by Bihar government following a guideline from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Ignoring the government’s directives and warning of action against celebratory firings at social functions including marriages, influential members of society, particularly in rural areas, continue to indulge in this. The police and administration’s failure to take action against the perpetrators is further adding to the impunity of these violators.
In the latest cases, both the victims were photographer. Vijay was killed in a celebratory firing at a wedding ceremony in Samastipur district on late Thursday night (November 28). He was recording the dancing members of the groom’s marriage party near the bride’s house when a few members, who were intoxicated started the celebratory firing. “One or two bullets hit his chest, killing him on the spot,” according to an witness.Vijay was a resident of Begusarai district and was hired by the groom's family to record the marriage party.
Another photographer cum videographer Manoj was killed last Friday night at a wedding ceremony in Chandi Dhanush village in Vaishali district. He was hit by a bullet when he was recording the exchange of garlands and died on the spot, as per the people present there.
What has left Manoj’s family members fuming is that the marriage party took his body in a vehicle and dumped it a few kilometres away from the venue to suppress the evidence of the incident. But the police has lodged a case against the family members of the groom and bride.
Not only these, several other cases of serious injuries after being hit by bullets during celebratory firing have been reported from a number of districts including Khagaria, Begusarai, Muzaffarpur and Begusarai in the last ten days.
A senior police officer at the police headquarters in Patna told NewsClick, “Since January this year, during the traditional marriage season—locally knowns as lagan—more than two dozen people have been killed in celebratory firing and several others injured.”
He added, “Among the people killed, there was a music band member, two girl dancers as well as close relatives of the grooms and brides.”
In July 2019, a groom was killed in Patna district when a bullet hit him during celebratory firing during the wedding ceremony.
Celebratory firing is used as a way of displaying money and muscle power during wedding ceremonies, which is common particularly in the rural areas in Bihar. The practice of celebratory firing is most popular among the powerful and dominant upper castes like Rajput, Bhumihar and OBCs like Yadav, Kurmi and Kushwaha, during the traditional marriage season.
Talking about the increasing incidents of celebratory firing, social activist Mahendar Yadav, associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) said, “In Bihar, it is not unusual if someone is carrying firearms. People are used to celebratory firing during wedding ceremonies, victory processions of political parties and even during religious functions.”
He said there is a provision to cancel arms licence of the accused but it has remained only on paper. Besides this, most of the arms used during celebratory firings are allegedly illegal. “It is for the local police to check such practices but police have failed totally,” he added.
A senior police official admitted that the central government has recently sent a letter to all state governments directing them to take strict action against those who are found guilty of engaging in celebratory firing.