Three days after 19-year-old Bihar native Satya Prakash was stabbed to death in Kota and one of his friends was seriously injured when a group of 30-35 students attacked them, reports of ‘gang’-related violence have engulfed the city.
City police, however, have refuted the gang angle theory. But the students from Bihar allege discrimination and point their fingers at ‘local goons’ in this case. Two students have been detained by police, and according to initial reports both the perpetrators and victims hail from Bihar.
Reports of a students’ group called ‘Bihari Tigers Force’ (BTF) being involved in a ‘turf war’ with other student groups in the city appeared in state-based newspapers. Although Kota Police dismissed any reports of ‘turf’ war and involvement of any Bihar or Haryana ‘gangs’, it did little to stop the sectarian politics from escalating.
Superintendent of police Sawai Singh Godara ridiculed the ‘gang’ angle or criminal background of students as reported by several state-based newspapers. “We can’t call 16-17-year-old students ‘gang members’. These students have no criminal background and there is nothing to implicate that a specific gang named Bihari Tigers Force was involved. In fact, there is nothing to suggest whether such a group actually exists,” said Godara.
A former Kota student, on the condition of anonymity, revealed that it is the local, ‘small-time’ goons who usually extort money from outstation students in the pretext of providing protection. “Local goons such as Billu Pathan and Raju Banna operate in student-populated areas such as Jawahar Nagar, Indra Vihar and Rajiv Gandhi Nagar. They usually try to impress the outstation students by offering them an extravagant lifestyle and later extort protection money from them. These local goons usually recruit students in their groups and indifference from Kota police makes matters worse”.
After the killing of Satya, Bharatiya Janta Party MLA from Kota, Bhawani Singh Rajawat, on Friday, had said that “students from Bihar are spoiling the atmosphere of Kota and they should be driven out of the city”.
This incident also prompted Bihar’s deputy chief minister Tejaswi Prasad Yadav to write an open letter to Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, asking her to ensure safety and well being of Bihari students studying in Kota.
Later, the BJP MLA retracted his comments, saying that “only those students from Bihar who have criminal background should be rusticated”. However, Rajawat’s retraction did little to soothe the angry students of Bihar, who have studied in Kota. They allege that the bogey of ‘Bihari Tigers Force’ and ‘Bihari criminal background’ have been created to malign the reputation of outstation students.
“Those recommending ouster of Bihari students should check the results of coaching centers. They will find that majority of the toppers are from Bihar. Kota will shut down if we go by the MLA’s comments,” said Rishav Krishna, a student of VIT Vellore, who studied in Kota for three years.
And Rishav’s claim on Kota’s economy being run by outstation students is not farfetched as the city sees an influx of 1.25 lakh students every year and 85% of them hail from UP, Bihar, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. According to a report by HT, the estimated turnover of Kota coaching industry is Rs 2000 crore and the state gets an annual taxation of Rs 130 crore.
And there is another kind of fallout of this incident also. Several other students from Bihar, while speaking to HT correspondent, complained about facing discrimination from landlords. “I always faced prejudice from local landlords who refrained from renting their houses to Bihari students,” said Sanu Kumar, currently enrolled in IIM Indore.
Giving a new angle to the ongoing conflict, Sanjeev Chandan, the editor of feminist magazine Streekal, believes that the bias of ‘savarna journalists’ (upper caste journalists) hailing from Bihar is primarily responsible for creating a poor image of the state across India. “16-17-year-olds indulging in ‘adventure’ murders is not a new concept for urban cities yet when the perpetrators are from Bihar, the crime gets a new angle. I believe the sectarian politics has been fuelled by the savarna journalists from Bihar who had enmity against the then Lalu Prasad government. They are the ones who created a jungle raj image of Bihar. Therefore, today, even isolated incidents of students’ violence are being used to implicate Bihari students,” said Chandan.