An angry mob set on fire 36 trucks in Lakhisarai district of south-eastern Bihar late Friday night, after a local woman was crushed to death and her husband was grievously injured in a road mishap.
The mob went vent its ire on a convoy of trucks after the couple came under the wheels of a truck on national highway – 80, near RL College under Kabaiya police station of Lakhisarai town, about 133 km east of Patna.
Police sources said for sheer scale of the arson, the incident was unprecedented. Nineteen of the trucks set afire by the local residents were reduced to ashes, while 17 suffered lesser damages, the sources added.
Before torching the trucks, the protestors blocked the busy Lakhisarai-Mokama route, bringing the traffic movement on it to a standstill for several hours.
In retaliation, members of the Bihar truck owners’ association (BTOA), on Saturday, blocked the national highway at several places, disrupting traffic movement and a 10-km long queue of stranded vehicles.
They were demanding stern action against those involved in the arson. They submitted a list of 16 persons, who, they claimed, were involved in the incident.
The mob rampage was triggered by the death of the Munni Devi, wife of rice mill owner Vijay Sah, who was seriously injured in the incident and was referred to Patna medical college and hospital (PMCH) for treatment.
His condition continued to be critical till the time this report was filed.
According to the police, the accident took place around 9.30 pm when Sah and his wife were returning to their home at Premdiha village under Halsi police station from the Lakhisarai market.
Riding on a motorcycle, they came under the wheels of a speeding truck near R L College. The driver of the truck managed to flee from the spot after the accident, police said.
Sah and his wife were brought to the Lakhisarai sadar hospital, where Munni was declared brought dead while her husband was referred to the PMCH. As the news spread, around 500 protestors blocked the main road.
Placing Munni's body on the road, they demanded stern action against those responsible for the accident. Later, the protestors set afire 36 vehicles belonging to construction material suppliers operating in the area.
Sources said the spot was only a few metres away from the police station and the residence of superintendent of police (SP).
District magistrate Amrendra Prasad Singh and SP Rajeev Mishra tried to pacify BTOA leaders demanding compensation of Rs. 30 lakh per truck and disposal of the case in a fast track court.
“We are instituting a case of rioting and vandalism,” Mishra said, adding that the whole incident had been video-recorded and stern action would be taken against the rioters after identifying them.
“We have assured BTOA leaders their insurance claims will be processed without delay. But the truck owners are rigid on their demand for compensation for which there’s no provision”, the DM said.
Ramanand Singh, president of the Lakhisarai district truck owners’ association said speedy processing of insurance claims would provide relief only to the truck owners whose vehicles had full insurance cover.
“What will happen to the owners of the vehicle whose vehicles had third party insurance cover is a pertinent issue”, Singh pointed out.
Meanwhile, state BJP spokesman and legislator Vijay Kumar Sinha termed it a failure of the Lakhisarai administration. Had the administration taken timely action, the incident could have been avoided, he claimed.