Communal flare-up in Bihar engulfs 7 districts, two groups clash in Munger
Clashes broke out between two religious groups in Bihar’s Munger early on Wednesday as communal tension triggered by violence during a festive procession in Bhagalpur on March 17 spread to seven districts, prompting the authorities to deploy additional policemen and paramilitary troopers to control the situation.
According to the police, more than 100 people, including policemen, have been injured in the violence over the past 10 days and several shops and business establishments set on fire.
The state government, struggling to restore peace, imposed prohibitory orders in some areas and deployed paramilitary and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel to tackle the unrest that broke out during this year’s Ram Navami celebrations. More than 200 people have been arrested so far.
Police said Munger became the latest addition to the list of troubled districts after violence broke out over a controversial song being played and inflammatory slogans shouted at an immersion procession of Chaiti Durga.
A large group had gathered in Munger’s Neelam Chowk thoroughfare in protest and the clashes began when the rally reached there, police said.
People from both sides shot firearms, threw stones and brickbats, and set property and vehicles on fire, police said, estimating that more than 100 rounds of gunshots were fired as the violence engulfed several neighbourhoods in the town.
Stones were thrown at policemen deployed to control the flare-up as well as ensure peaceful immersion of the goddess’s idols, forcing the authorities to order baton-charges and fire warning shots to disperse the mobs. Security forces are carrying out flag marches in sensitive areas.
“I am at one of the troubled spots. It’s calm now,” said Vikas Vaibhav, the Munger range deputy inspector general of police.
In adjoining Jamui district, people at an idol immersion procession clashed with policemen. Several people, including six policemen, were wounded. “Two policemen were critically wounded,” Jamui superintendent of police Jagannath Reddy said.
According to eyewitnesses, who refused to be named, the violence began over the police’s refusal to allow a procession from entering an unauthorized route.
The Ram Navani festival keeps police on the edge almost every year in Bihar as the processions are taken out for several days and trouble-makers try to foment communal trouble. This year, police said, the government has permitted 1,590 Ram Navami committees across the state to hold processions but several unauthorised rallies were taken out too.