Patna: A protest march was held in Muzaffarpur on Wednesday, a day after farmers, who were staging a peaceful sit-in protest against the three Farm Laws, were injured after being attacked, abused and threatened. Their posters and banners were torn and the dharna site was ransacked by an alleged group of sloganeering Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) members. There has been no arrest in the case so far.
Five protesters were injured in a violent attack in broad daylight. The attackers fled the scene after beating up protesters and ransacking their dharna site.
A day after protesters were attacked and beaten, hundreds of people, including farmers, activists, the youth and women took out a protest march this morning in Muzaffarpur to protest against the violent incident.
The attack on protesters came soon after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat's three-day visit to Muzaffarpur district. During the visit he addressed members of different Sangh Parivar organisations and urged farmers to adopt organic farming. However, he hardly said anything about the ongoing farmers’ protests against the farm laws.
Soon after being attacked and beaten by alleged VHP members, angry protesters sat on dharna on Company Bagh and demanded that action be taken against the attackers.
Despite the attempt to dissuade protesters, the dharna resumed as usual on Wednesday – the 60th day since a “Dainik Dharna” began at Shaheed Khudiram Bose Smarak Sthal in Muzaffarpur. It is probably the only place in Bihar where a dharna against the farm laws has been going on for the last two months.
The protest site near Company Bagh is at the heart of Muzaffarpur, not far away from the offices of the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police.
Farmers and activists from different civil society bodies and leaders and workers of the Left parties had joined hands and began a dharna against the laws in mid-December last year in solidarity with protesting farmers in Delhi.
“It is a day-time dharna in which we, the protesters, gather to express our protest against the farm laws. We have put up banners, posters and handwritten slogans against the laws at the dharna site.Till noon on February 16 it was all peaceful but in the afternoon a group of youths armed with bamboo sticks and shouting slogans like Jai Shri Ram, Desh ke gaddaron...,Rashtra virodhi ko maro etc attacked protesters, beat them up, abused them and threatened to end the protest,” alleged Shahid Kamal from the Rashtra Seva Dal, a socialist outfit, which is part of the protests under the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti and the Sanyukt Kisan Sangharsh Morcha.
Chandeshwar Prasad Singh, a farmer leader, said that the VHP men first damaged their sound system, tore banners and posters and thrashed half a dozen protesters.
He said the dharna continues and will persist till the NDA government repeals the farm laws. “The attack is part of a strategy by right-wing outfits to create a sense terror among protesters to end the protest. We will intensify our protest from today itself to counter their violent attack. Large numbers of farmers and others will participate in protest now,” he added.
Kamal alleged that those who attacked the protesters were led by a local VHP leader. Protesters have submitted photos and video clips of the attackers to the police to take action.
Om Prakash the officer-in-charge of Muzaffarpur town police station said an FIR was lodged against 20 unknown person but that no arrest had been made so far. Local witnesses to this violent attack on protesters informed police that the “accused were shouting slogans, beat up and abused protesters to disperse them”.
Police officials admitted that the attack was wrong and that the police would investigate the matter to identify the accused. However, they expressed helplessness in initiating action as the police are under pressure to ensure a cheating-free class 10 board examination that began today.
Lal Babu Mahto, leader of the Akhil Bhartiya Khet Mazdoor Sangathan, alleged that some workers from farmers’ bodies were attacked and beaten near Dhigra in Muzaffarpur on January 26 when they were returning from tractor march against the farm laws. “We have submitted a written complaint of the murderous attack on farmers’ bodies members to the police but nothing has happened till date. The police is yet to arrest any one,” he added.
Kamal recalled that last year the Hindu Jagran Manch issued a warning to end the women-led peaceful sit-in protests against CAA-NRC-NPR in Muzaffarpur and threatened to launch an agitation soon if authorities failed to end it.
Aside from the Opposition Mahagathbandhan – including Left parties – protesting against the Farm Laws in Bihar, former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) is also making a stir. The party is conducting ‘Kisan Chaupals’ to create awareness against the laws and has threatened to launch a state-wide farmer protest on lines of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The Mahagathbandhan has organised several protests against the Farm Laws over the past month. Nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s total population of 12 crore is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of them are small and marginal farmers, as per government data. Moreover, nearly two-third of all agricultural activities in the state is dependent on rainfall.
Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s gross domestic product, according to state government’s figures.