Patna: There is a sense of growing anger in rural Bihar against the high-handed nature of the state police enforcing the lockdown. It spilled over and came out in the open in several places in the state over the last 48 hours, leading to violent attacks on the police, block level officials and medical teams when they had either gone to villages to enforce the lockdown, or for a medical check up of suspect coronavirus cases.
Aside from the violent incidents, people have been also expressing their displeasure, after being fed up with government assurances of timely help during the lockdown, and its apathy.
In Akauni village which falls under the jurisdiction of the Goh police station in Aurangabad district, policemen and a medical team were attacked and injured by villagers on Wednesday after a case of mistaken identity. Authorities attempted to screen a suspected youth forcibly and the police’s high handedness attracted the ire of the villagers, who attacked them.
The local police claims that their team, along with a medical team, were attacked when they reached the village to screen Radhey Yadav, who had returned from Delhi a few days ago. The villagers objected and protested when the teams reached the house of another youth with the same name and insisted on taking him for screening. They ignored the villagers despite their repeated requests that the real Radhey Yadav, son of Ramji Yadav, was someone else, not the youth they had been trying to screen for coronavirus and take to a quarantine centre.
However, the police used force to try and screen the wrong man, abused and misbehaved with members of his family, including women, and even roughed them up. The incident took a violent turn when family members, along with some villagers, started pelting stones at the police and medical team after they refused to listen to them.
Usha Devi, Mukhiya of Dihuri panchayat (of Akauni village) told NewsClick that the attack by villagers happened as they refused to believe the villagers that the man was not the Radhey Yadav they were looking for. “It was a case of mistaken identity as there are three villagers with same name but Radhey Yadav, who had arrived from Delhi was one who should have gone for the medical check up. What the police and medical team did was that they identified a different Radhey Yadav and forcibly tried to screen him. That angered his extended family and other villagers, who attacked police for high-handedness. It was wrong on their part to have attacked the police and a medical team,” she added.
She said that some villagers had advised Radhey Yadav to go for test a day after he arrived in the village, but he ignored them. However, Yadav reportedly had a clash with a villager after he spat outside his house. Following the incident, he informed the local police and requested them to screen him.
Usha choked up and said that the police excess in the area is such that despite being an elected local village body head with a pass issued by the Block Development officer to move in her panchayat to provide help to people, the police refused to allow her to visit people. “When the police has been behaving ruthlessly with an elected mukhiya, one can imagine the plight of a common villager here. The police has been torturing me as well as other villagers in the name of enforcing a lockdown,” she said.
Usha expressed her dismay over police action against innocent villagers after the violent attack. “Police have mercilessly beaten up innocent people including a ward member of the village after breaking his door, and they took several villagers under custody, who were not at all involved in stone pelting and the attack. This is injustice,” she added.
A sense of anger also led to violent clashes between the police and people at Kako in Jehanabad district on Wednesday. People pelted stones at the police which resulted in injuries to the police station in-charge and five other policemen.
According to locals, a police team forcibly entered a house and beat up a woman, Manju Devi, for violating the lockdown, leading to people attacking the police.
Similarly, at Bakhri in Begusarai district, a group of people attacked the police for beating up a youth for violating the lockdown.
In another incident at Jagapakad village under Harsidhi police station in East Champaran district, over half a dozen policemen were injured. Villagers attacked the police after it tried to enforce the lockdown when they were protesting against non-distribution of ration from the Public Distribution System (PDS) shops.
Local BDO Sunil Kumar admitted that villagers were angry about the non-availability of rations from four out of five PDS shops during the lockdown.
A mob of nearly 100 villagers in Nalanda, the district Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar calls home, attacked policemen on Tuesday after they used force to quarantine some villagers. The villagers have protested against police excesses during the lockdown.
However, Bihar’s Director General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey warned on Thursday that everyone accused of attacking policemen for enforcing the lockdown would be sent to jail. “Such people’s names would be registered in gunda panji and speedy trial would be conducted for their punishment by the court,” he added.
According to government data, more than 1.8 lakh migrant workers returned to Bihar after the lockdown began. Unofficial figures doing the rounds say more than 3 lakh migrant workers returned to Bihar after March 22.
Sensing a growing restlessness over livelihoods, CM Nitish Kumar issued directions to create opportunities for poor labourers, especially migrant workers.
As of Thursday, 74 people had tested COVID-19 positive in Bihar, with one person dead. So far, the state had tested more than 6500 samples.