Amir Subhani, Principal Secretary (Home), Govt. Of Bihar
“We are living in a volatile or maybe even an explosive situation,” said the Bihar Home Secretary while talking to Newsclick about the spate of communal violence from March 25 to 30 that partially tore apart a society known for a peaceful co-existence.
He also said the police are also part of the volatile society, indicating its complicity in the riots that began from Bhagalpur and engulfed eights more districts – Munger, Samastipur, Gaya, Siwan, Aurangabad, Nawada, Kaimur and Siwan – within few days.
“A policeman was seen shouting offensive slogans at the head of the procession. The police are also part of the volatile and explosive world around us,” Principal Secretary (Home) Amir Subhani told Newsclick in an exclusive interview on April 5 at the state secretariat.
Asked why the police did not take lessons from the flare up in Bhagalpur on March 17 after some people objected to playing of loud and objectionable music during an unauthorised procession taken out to celebrate the New Year of the Hindu calendar, he said, “The police was alert and deployment took place. We don’t claim total success, but it was not a failure. Had the police not acted on time, the situation would have been worse.”
Union minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey’s son Arijit Shashwat, who was jailed on April 1, allegedly instigated the violence that erupted in Nathnagar area of Bhagalpur, leaving several persons, including two police personnel, injured because of heavy stone-pelting, arson and exchange of fire.
Shashwat was named in one of the two FIRs lodged in the aftermath of the violence. He surrendered before the police at the Hanuman temple in the state capital Patna.
Asked about reports of swords being distributed in large numbers ahead of the Rama Navami – a festival celebrated to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Rama, he said, “We are aware of swords being present at the (Rama Navami) processions in large numbers – which was never seen before. But we don’t know exactly how many. It is part of our investigation.”
Rama Navami procession at Dak Bangla Chauraha in Patna
Newsclick had reported that around 2 lakh sharp edge weapon were procured from outside the state and delivered to the affected regions through courier. Intelligence sources had told this correspondent that “it was an engineered riots” for which “preparations were going on for the past six months”. They also said funds in running into crores of rupees were raised well in advance to procure weapons.
“People” “were called in from outside the state to instigate the rioters” revealed the sources. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had given two alerts (first “a month back and the second immediate”) to the state Home Affairs dept. as well as the Centre regarding possible communal tensions in the state.
“We had given specific alert with identification of the possible areas and targets. All the districts that found a mention in our reports were ultimately targeted,” said an IB official.
Asked if there were any such alerts and if so, were they not acted upon, Subhani said, “We had inputs, which we get ahead of every such events, but they were not specific. We acted accordingly and deployed forces. The police was alert and deployment took place.”
“We took all precautionary measures. Revised and updated guidelines were sent ahead of the Rama Navami celebrations. All material for the processions was checked to make sure there were no offensive songs or tableaux involved. We had asked for the CDs from organisers and examined them before giving permissions. But we came to know that provocative songs were played in the processions instead of the approved one,” said the home secretary.
Talking about the involvement of politicians in fomenting the riots, the senior bureaucrat said there was leader of a political party who took part in peace committee meetings and also participated in the violent processions.
Both Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress leaders are accused of inciting violence during the religious procession. A video – which is in exclusive possession of Newsclick – shows Congress MLA from Aurangabad Anand Shankar leading an unruly crowd. A local BJP leader, Anil Singh, has also been booked for the violence. He had escaped from police custody when he was taken to a local court but finally surrendered on April 2.
Aurangabad MP Sushil Kumar Singh had said that “there is a reaction to an action” on March 26, following which communal clashes erupted in the district. He was associated with an organisation called Hindu Sewa Samiti, which has been organising Ram Navmi processions in Aurangabad for a long time. He joined the BJP in 2007.
Subhani said new religious organisations have come up in the state of late that organise such processions, resulting in communal flare ups. “New organisations with the name of a particular religion have come up and they keep approaching the district administration for such rallies. Since it is a matter of faith, we have to give permissions with terms and conditions but they are violated,” he added.
Asked why was it that Ram Navami was on March 25 but people organised its processions till March 28, he said, “People generally don’t agree to organise such processions on one day. Some of them do it one day, others organise it on different dates. We cannot deny them permissions outright but indulging in violence is never allowed. This happens in Durga Puja as well. Idol immersions take place on different days. This is what happened in the case of Rama Navami processions as well.”
Talking about those who have lost their livelihood because their shops were turned into ashes, Subhani concluded, “All those whose property has been gutted will be given compensation. District magistrates of the respective regions have submitted their assessment of the losses and we have released the compensation which will be given to the affected people soon.”