Several journalists were injured and some had their cameras smashed when a legislator of Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) party and his bodyguards attacked them with sticks and stones in retaliation for their protest against his assault on two mediapersons.
JD-U legislator Anant Singh, a known bahubali or muscleman in the state, and four of his henchmen have been arrested for the assault on mediapersons. However, the arrests were made only five hours after the attack.
Singh's men used bamboo sticks freely on the journalists, some hurled stones at them while others fired warning shots in the air to dispel the mediapersons who had gathered outside his residence in Patna to protest against the merciless beating of NDTV senior journalist Prakash Singh and his cameraman Habib Ali earlier in the day.
The NDTV journalist had approached the legislator for his reaction to reports linking him to the rape and murder of a young woman, Reshma. The woman had sent a letter to the chief minister, police officials and mediapersons before her death, implicating Anant Singh, his close associate and builder Mukesh Singh, and Singh's bodyguard in her rape. Anant Singh faces two dozen criminal cases, including charges of murder, kidnapping, extortion and threat.
Prakash Singh and Habib Ali were forcibly held hostage for two hours and mercilessly beaten by Anant Singh and his men when they went to ask him for his reactions to allegations of his involvement in the young woman's rape-murder.
The two journalists were rushed to a local hospital.
"Cameraman Habib and I went to take a reaction from Anant Singh about his alleged involvement in the rape of a young woman. But he behaved dangerously. He and his henchmen attacked us and beat us mercilessly at his residence and also abused us," Prakash Singh said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced he will recommend a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged rape and murder of Reshma on the basis of a one-page Hindi letter she had written.
Though Nitish Kumar was inaccessible to the media since morning, he surfaced in the afternoon to announce his decision to recommend a CBI probe. Other leaders of the ruling party have refused to comment.
In her letter addressed to Nitish Kumar, Reshma, in her early 20s, alleged that Singh, his bodyguard and the builder repeatedly raped her. She also said that she faced a serious threat to her life and apprehended that Anant Singh could kill her.
Reshma's brother told a local TV channel that his sister was raped and killed by Anant Singh. He claimed that Singh had told him that his sister's body had been thrown near a thick bush at Patel Nagar, a middle-class locality. The police have recovered the body of a young woman, suspected to be of Reshma, stuffed in a sack from the city.
Sunil Kumar, deputy inspector general of police, told newspersons that the police arrested Anant Singh and his men under non-bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code.
He refused to answer when asked why it took so long to take action against the legislator. "The Patna senior superintendent of police is inquiring into the case," was all he would say.
Anant Singh, a legislator from Mokama, is considered close to the chief minister. He is locally known as 'Chhote Sarkar' and is a terror in Mokama and neighbouring areas in rural Patna district.
In 2004, Singh was seen brandishing an AK-47 rifle in public. But no action was taken against him. Under the law, only security personnel are allowed to carry the assault rifle.
Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly Rabri Devi, former chief minister and wife of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, joined mediapersons to demand the arrest of Anant Singh.
Rabri Devi, of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), has called for 'Bihar Bandh' (statewide strike) on Saturday to protest the incident. "All the opposition parties, including the RJD, the Congress and the Left, would join the strike to expose the kushashan (mis-governance) of the Nitish Kumar-led government," she told reporters.
The Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist and the Lok Janshakti Party are supporting the strike by the RJD.