Patna: Angry and unhappy about the police action against them inside the Bihar Assembly on Tuesday evening, the Opposition Mahagathbandhan, including Left parties MLAs, on Wednesday boycotted proceedings of the state assembly.
Wednesday was the last day of a three-week long budget session. Opposition members held a parallel or shadow assembly session outside the main building in the lawn of the assembly’s premises to protest against police action against them in the state assembly and demanded an apology from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and action against police officials involved in the violence. Senior RJD MLA Budheo Choudhary has been elected speaker of the shadow assembly.
A day after anti-riot police personnel and the Rapid Action Force entered the Bihar Assembly, allegedly misbehaving, abusing, beating and forcefully ejecting opposition MLAs who were opposing the passage of the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021, opposition members on Wednesday refused to go inside the assembly and take part in proceedings.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav called CM Nitish Kumar “Nirlaj Kumar”, and said the entire opposition will boycott the state assembly for the next five years if action was not taken against police officials. “I and all opposition members have decided to boycott the assembly if action is not taken against police officials for beating MLAs and if Nitish Kumar does not tender a public apology for it. I will never forget the abuse, misbehaviour and beating of women MLAs inside the assembly,” he added.
RJD MLA Anita Devi, who was allegedly beaten inside the Assembly and sustained a leg injury joined the shadow assembly and said she never expected the police to beat them and try and lift them out of the assembly. Another RJD MLA Sawarjeet Kumar said opposition members will not enter the assembly and will not take part in proceedings if action was not taken against police officials.
Anita Devi was one of over a dozen opposition women MLAs who were allegedly brutally assaulted and dragged outside the premises of the Assembly by policewomen.
CPI (ML) MLA Mahboob Alam said hundreds of Bihar Police personnel have been deployed inside the Assembly with bamboo sticks in their hands and that opposition members were afraid to enter the assembly in view of what happened on Tuesday. “It was unprecedented as the anti-riot police force was allowed to enter the Assembly, beat up opposition MLAs and physically lift them out. Two MLAs fainted and dozens received injuries during police action. Such an incident has never occured inside the assembly before,” he added.
The bone of contention was the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021, introduced by the Nitish Kumar government to give its police more teeth. The government claimed it was necessary in view of the increasingly complex security needs of the state.
The Opposition, however, termed it a “black” legislation, taking strong exception to provisions that empower the Special Armed Police, previously known as the Bihar Military Police, to conduct searches and arrests without producing a warrant.
Things came to pass after the Speaker was thwarted from taking his seat by a handful of women legislators of the RJD who had clambered on to the podium even as many other MLAs were in the well, where they threw away the chair of the Vidhan Sabha secretary and prevented staff from bringing in another piece of furniture.
Tempers flared up in the treasury benches as well. Cabinet minister Ashok Choudhary was seen getting physical with an RJD MLA who tried to snatch away the papers from BJP’s Prem Kumar, who occupied the chair in the absence of Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) criticised the legislation and the way it was introduced, calling it a “black day” in the history of democratic India.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said those stripping democracy have no right to call themselves a government. He said the opposition will continue to raise issues in public interest. “It is clear from the shameful events in Bihar Assembly that the chief minister is firmly under the influence of BJP and RSS. Those stripping democracy have no right to call themselves a government,” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi. “The opposition will continue to raise issues in public interest. We are not afraid,” he added.
The Bill was, nonetheless, passed by the assembly late on Tuesday evening, well past the stipulated time, amid a “walkout” by opposition MLAs who squatted outside the building and raised slogans, slighted by the manner in which they were ousted from the hall by the men in uniform.
The CPI (M) staged protests and burned an effigy of the NDA government led by Nitish Kumar against the incidents. The party condemned the “brutal attack” on CPI(M) MLA Satyendra Yadav, RJD MLA Satish Kumar and the assault and abuse against RJD’s women MLAs inside the assembly.
Political watchers said it was the first time that the anti-riot force and Bihar police personnel were rushed inside the assembly to act against protesting opposition members who were staging a dharna against the Bill.
Meanwhile, in a press conference on Wednesday, a group of senior RJD leaders including Jagdanand Singh and Abdul Bari Siddiqui attacked the CM and questioned the role of Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha, a senior BJP leader, in the police action against opposition members inside the assembly.
Ruling NDA leaders have justified the police action against opposition members inside the assembly. They alleged that opposition members held the Speaker hostage in his chambers for over an hour and disrupted the assembly in protest.
In the absence of opposition members, ruling members elected Maheshwar Hazari as the Deputy Speaker on Wednesday. Opposition members have not taken part in voting as they were boycotting the assembly.
Police have lodged two FIRs against RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and several party leaders, including his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav, and more than 3,000 party workers in connection with protests by the RJD in Patna on Tuesday. Tejashwi was leading the party’s protest march to gherao the state assembly despite the Patna district administration refusing permission.
Dozens of opposition RJD workers were injured in Patna on Monday when the police baton-charged them to stop them during a protest march as part of the party’s Vidhan Sabha Gherao (encircling of Bihar Assembly) programme against “Berozgari, Mehngai” (unemployment, inflation) and the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.
With handwritten placards, they raised slogans against the government’s failure on the employment front and its bid to turn Bihar into a “police state” through the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill.
As per the draft, the Bill will empower police to apprehend people without a specific warrant issued by competent courts and will give power to conduct search without a warrant.
The Opposition is likely to intensify its protest against the Bill on the streets in the coming days.
With PTI Inputs