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Nitish's record gets beating

Nawada SP Shalin told HT over telephone that more than 25 gang members have been booked over the past six months.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 03:09 IST

How good a king is Nitish Kumar? Doubts mill. The trail of blood -- a deathcount of 16 in three gang flare-ups in a week -- doesn’t speak well for the tall claims of sushashan (good governance) by the Nitish Kumar regime in Bihar.

Seven villagers were killed on Saturday in a gangwar at Manipur in Sheikhpura district after two notorious dons -- Ashok Mahto and Akhilesh Singh -- clashed. While Ashok is a Kurmi by caste, Akhilesh belongs to the landowing Bhumihar community. They have been at each other’s throat since 1998.  

Earlier, their area of operation was Warisaliganj in Nawada. But now, it’s Sheikhpura and neighbouring Nalanda. The rivalry has claimed 200 lives, including 130 in Nawada.

The recent violence was triggered by the murder of a Bhumihar villager at Barbigha by the Ashok Mahto gang.  To avenge it, Akhilesh and men returned fire at Goachak in neighbouring Nalanda district the same evening, killing nine. Mahto raided Manipur on Saturday. The feud has its roots in the local caste conflict. A war between the Bhumihars and Kurmis. At stake is the control of the stone-crushing units and the sand lifting contracts.

At present, they are fighting for the share of the panchayat pie by lending muscle to candidates of choice. Both gangs are backed by respective caste leaders. Akhilesh, languishing in Bhagalpur jail, has the blessing of powerful Bhumihar caste leaders, including former MP Rajo Singh. His wife, Aruna Devi, was an independent legislator from Warisaliganj.

Later, she joined the LJP but lost the 2006 bypoll to Pradip Mahto. Pradip, in Beur jail, is an Ashok Mahto acolyte.

Sources said Ashok has the patronage of an IPS officer, who served as an SP in Nawada and Sheikhpura, with stakes in stone-crushing and sand mining. He is also backed by Kurmi leaders. Similarly, the lobby backing Akhikesh also has its fingers in the same pudding.

When asked why the police have not been able to bump off the duo, DGP Ashish Ranjan Sinha said, “The police are doing their job”.

Nawada SP Shalin told HT over telephone that more than 25 gang members have been booked over the past six months. “We are pursuing them after their names figured in two carnages in Nalanda and Sheikhpura districts.” Though the CM has transferred the DIG (range), DM and the SP and suspended the local OC, branding the incident as an “administrative failure”, fear looms large. For the kingpins are still out there.