The Nitish Kumar led administration has forged a political advantage, deciding to table the NN Singh Commission report on the infamous Bhagalpur riots of 1989 in the upcoming Monsoon session of the Assembly starting August 4.
The Commission has indicted 125 officials of the time, whom it holds guilty of negligence and abetment of the massacre. It includes the highest police and civil administration ranks guilty.
The probe panel has also recommended reinstatement of such victims whose property was either forcibly grabbed or forced to sell off their assets by the rioters.
“The commission has identified altogether 85 such victim families, who were forced to sell their properties at throwaway prices.
The government is also mulling bringing a legislation to nullify the registration of properties of victims by the land grabbers,” an official said on the condition of anonymity.
The state government also set up a five-member committee of officials headed by the state chief secretary to implement the suggestions of the commission.
Over a 1000 people - mostly Muslims - were massacred in the riots, while thousands were displaced. The riots destroyed the famous loom industry, the basis of the famous Bhagalpuri silk.
The timing of the Nitish government’s decision to make the report public assumes political significance and is being perceived as a political tool aimed at putting the BJP and RSS in the wrong box ahead of the crucial assembly polls.
The 1989 riots had changed the political course of Bihar, as it had put a question mark on the secular credentials of the then state Congress leaders and marked the end of the Congress regime.
Reaping the benefit of the strong anti-Congress sentiments, the Janata Dal along with other secular forces ousted the Congress and formed the government with Lalu Prasad as chief minister in 1990.
The RJD led by Lalu Prasad and JD(U) led by Nitish Kumar-Sharad Yadav duo are trying to revive the ghosts of the Bhagalpur riots after 25 years aim also to subtly warn the electorate of the communal Saffron tinge to elections, a theme that dominates their election rallies and also attempts Muslim-Yadav consolidation against an all out war by rivals against the Kumar regime.
However, former Bhagalpur division commissioner and now a Jitan Ram Manjhi led Hindustani Awam MorchaSecular candidate, MA Ibrahimi was quick to counter: “Both the RJD and JD(U) governments are responsible for the sad plight of Bhagalpur riot victims. I had personally requested both the governments to expedite the investigations and book the guilty. Now, on the eve of election they are shedding crocodile tears to create a vote bank,” he said.
He said, the then RJD had ordered the Bhagalpur administration to stop distribution of compensation to riot victims.
“In 2006 CM Nitish Kumar also did not allow distribution of compensation to riot victims. In order to score a political point against the RJD, Kumar instituted the Justice NN Singh Inquiry Commission on which several crores of rupees were wasted,” Ibrahimi claimed.
Of the 125 officials including IAS, IPS and state services, several of them are either on central deputation or have joined the Jharkhand cadre after bifurcation of Bihar in 2000. Some of the officers have even retired.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar had announced to the inquiry commission to probe the 1989 communal riots soon after he assumed office in November 2005 and appointed the probe panel in February 2006, deciding to get 27 cases of communal riots reinvestigated to bring the guilty to book and punish the officials responsible for their acquittal, despite substantial evidence against them.
The probe panel was also asked to look into the suggestions and recommendations of the previous commission headed by Justice (Retired) R N Prasad set up by the RJD government.
The Bhagalpur riot commission chairman, Justice (retired) N N Singh, had submitted its report on February 28 this year to chief minister Nitish Kumar.