On March 19, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar proclaimed that he had not made any compromise with corruption and would not make any against those disturbing social harmony. The statement came a day after an FIR was lodged against Arijit Shashwat, son of Union minister of state for health, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, for leading an unauthorised religious procession in Bhagalpur and causing riots.
It took almost two weeks for the long hand of law to reach Arijit, that too he surrendered. In the meantime, communal clashes have been reported from 10 places in Bihar, including Silao block of Chief Minister’s home district of Nalanda. Over 200 people, including policemen (one IPS probationer too) had received injuries and over 100 shops have been gutted or destroyed mostly in Aurangabad and Rosera in Samastipur district. Three hundred people have been arrested. This includes two BJP leaders in Samastipur district.
Hinting at Nitish’s so-called warning, Choubey publicly declared that the FIR against his son was just a piece of garbage or ‘raddi ka tukra’ filed by corrupt officials of Bhagalpur.
Arijit had since then shifted to Patna. He was openly giving interviews to the media and even led a Ram Navami procession on March 25. Who can now dare to ask whether the permission for this open display of power was sought from administration or not?
Firings, bomb blasts, battle-cries and provocative slogans by sword-wielding people have not yet woken up the inner conscience of Nitish, who took no time to quit the Grand Alliance and cross over to re-join the NDA in July last year. The open defiance by Choubey-Arijit duo has the support of another Union Minister, Giriraj Singh, yet the Chief Minister has gone into silent mode. His action too is not speaking much.
His civil and police officials have their tongues tied. They speak in hush-hush tone to some journalists to express their helplessness in dealing with the Sangh Parivar storm troopers. They all know who the culprits are, but their hands have been tied.
The media-friendly Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi is yet to call a Press conference to denounce this Jungle Raj. He cannot do so. If he opens his mouth, the Narendra Modi loyalists within his party––Choubey and Giriraj––would blast him and dub him as Nitish Kumar’s ‘chamcha’.
There are saner elements in the society––in fact within the BJP too––who are alarmed at the way the situation is deteriorating in Bihar. What upsets civil rights groups is not just the polarisation of the society, but the way the BJP leaders are defying the law of the land.
Be it general law and order or communal situation or for that matter or overall delivery mechanism system, an objective citizen can easily judge how powerful Nitish was before July 27 and how weak a CM he is after that date.
Yet, when the leader of opposition in the state Assembly, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, while speaking in the House, drew the attention of the government towards communal violence, Nitish counselled him not to raise the issue as it would aggravate the matter, for which the opposition too would be responsible. Nitish’s helplessness was writ large on his face.
When Lalu Prasad Yadav said that Nitish has surrendered before the BJP, Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai alleged that there was a big conspiracy to disturb the state and RJD was a part of it.
The strategy, it seems, is to keep the pot boiling till the 2019 election as this suits the saffron party.
Open display of arms during Ram Navami procession is a common practice in Jharkhand and earlier when it used to be called Chotanagpur region of Bihar.
Brandishing swords was something unheard of in the plains of Bihar and Bengal. But, of late, the Sangh Parivar is patronising such practices for obvious political objectives.
None else but renowned journalist MJ Akbar in his book ‘Riots After Riots’ (first published in 1988) wrote extensively on communal violence. This includes the infamous 1979 riots on the eve of Ram Navami in Jamshedpur.
It is another matter that now that he is in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, he has stopped wielding his pen to expose designs to divide the society.