Patna: Protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) as well as the National Register of Citizens (NRC) continued in Bihar, as the statewide shutdown called for by opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) hit normal life on Saturday. RJD’s shutdown received overwhelming support from people—resulting in a near total or complete Bihar Bandh.
During the down-to-dusk shutdown, violent clashes took place at a few places between two groups of people; but police reportedly intervened later and controlled the situation. There were reports of protesters clashing with the police personnel as well at a few places.
Thousands of protesters defied bone-chilling cold and took to the streets protesting during the shutdown, which was supported by other opposition parties including Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) of former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, Hindustani Awam Morcha of former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, Vikassheel Insaan party (VIP) of Mukesh Sahni and Left parties.
Roads wore a deserted look as few vehicles were seen plying in Patna and other districts. This was the second shutdown in Bihar to protest against the CAA and NRC; Left parties’ successful shutdown, supported by other opposition parties and student bodies, was observed on December 19.
Trains and road services were badly hit; markets and educational institutions including schools remained closed owing to the shutdown.
RJD leaders, workers and supporters along with leaders of its allies and Left parties blocked railway tracks and roads across the state. Protesters were seen burning tyres and staging sit-ins at various places.
However, a top police official denied reports of any violence and damage to public property from any part of the state.
According to reports, protesters clashed with traders and shopkeepers in Bhagalpur district during the shutdown when they opposed the forceful closure. In Patna, some protesters reportedly attacked a bus and a few vehicles, while in Phulwarisharif, protests turned violent when a group of people pelted stones at a protest march. They also opened fire, according to sources, following which three people sustained bullet injuries and over a dozen were injured.
Local RJD leaders alleged that BJP and RSS leaders had instigated some people to create trouble during the protest march to turn it into an episode of communal violence. “Yes, some protesters were attacked and injured. But now, the situation is under control,” said Phulwarisharif police station officer in-charge.
In Aurangabad district, violent clashes reportedly took place between protesters and the police—who reportedly fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. The police have arrested five people in this connection.
Supporters and members of RJD and its allies, with flags and banners in their hands, forcibly halted over two dozen trains including long-route express and passenger at Patna, Darbhanga, Katihar, Gaya, Purnea, Saharsa, Jehanabad, Bihar Shari, Nalanda, Khagaria, Ara, Bhagalpur and other railway stations.
Roads including National Highways and State Highways were also blocked at various places in two dozen districts across the state.
Protesters reportedly blocked Gandhi Setu—the longest bridge on river Ganga in Hajipur in Vaishali, which is considered a lifeline connecting Patna to north Bihar.
In Patna, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav led the protest march along with leaders of other opposition parties and addressed a massive gathering at Dak Bungalow. He said that RJD, along with its allies, would intensify protests if the Centre does not scrap CAA and NRC.
The administration has imposed Section 144 at several places in different districts.
More than 400 people have been arrested from across Bihar during the protests so far.
Bihar's ruling JD-U had voted in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) in both the houses of Parliament. Following widespread protests, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday said that NRC will not be implemented in Bihar. He is an ally of the ruling BJP.
Also read: CAA/NRC: 15 Held for Violence in Daryaganj, Bhim Army Chief Taken Into Custody