Bihar: The Communal Conundrum

Written by Mohammed Sajjad | Published on: December 7, 2015

On the Agarpur (Lalganj, Vaishali, Bihar) bouts of communal violence

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Across Bihar, ever since the declaration of the results of the state assembly elections on November 8, there have been at least nine incidents of communal violence between November 9-18, 2015. They were in Nagra Bazar (Saran), Makhdum Sarai (Siwan), Arrah, Phulwari Sharif (Patna), Ameetthiya (Yogapatti, West Champaran), Basatwara (Simri, Darbhanga), Radhanagar (Sajur, Bhagalpur), Hasanpura (Siwan), and at Agarpur (Lalganj, Vaishali). The last three incidents took place on November 18, 2015.

Less than a year ago on January 18, 2015, similar violence broke out in Azizpur (Saraiya, Muzaffarpur) killing few people and setting over 50 houses of Muslims on fire.[1] Agarpur and Azizpur villages are situated close to the historic village of Vaishali. The violence in these two villages are conspicuously similar.

The immediate cause which sparked the Agarpur (in Lalganj thana) violence was when a Muslim driver, Rizwan Khan, who was said to have been excessively drunk, hit three Hindu co-villagers with an out-of-control four-wheeler on November 17, 2015, the day of Chhatth Puja festival. Of these, two people died. The third person to be hit was Lakhpatia Devi of the adjacent village, Jehanabad, who was admitted to the Sadar Hospital, Lalganj. The deceased Rajendra Sah (65) and his 8-month-old granddaughter were admitted to the Patna Medical College Hospital where they died and without lodging a formal case, a funeral was performed in Patna itself, which is barely 40 kilometres away from the village of Agarpur (in Lalganj, Vaishali) connected with very good metallic road called ‘Buddhist Circuit’. Why a case was not lodged with the police, is a question worth asking.

The following day two sets of rumours spread: (a) the police had set the driver free, hence there were allegations of a “police-driver nexus”, and (b) that Lakhpatia Devi had also died. These two rumours were the trigger that fuelled communal violence on November 18. The fact that the owner of the vehicle, Nanhe Khan of Agarpur, is supposed to be a close aide of Munna Shukla, and that Nanhe Khan is also supposed to be what the local people prefer to call him, a dalal (fixer) of the thana (local police station) made the angry Hindus of the neighbourhood easily believe the rumour of police having helped out the driver.

Munna (Vijay) Shukla has been an MLA from Lalganj before being convicted (in 2007) by the court for the murder of the then minister in Lalu-Rabri cabinet, Brij Bihari Prasad, in 1998. Munna Shukla also served jail in the case of killing (mob lynching) of a dalit IAS officer, G. Krishnaiah, on December 5, 1994. Krishnaiah was the district magistrate (DM) of Gopalganj, the native district of the then chief minister Lalu Yadav. Munna Shukla’s elder brother, Chhotan Shukla, was killed in December 1994. It was at/during his funeral that the mob killed the unfortunate DM. Later his brother Bhutkun Shukla was also killed. Earlier, in 1992, the Vaishali MLA, Hemant Shahi, [son of Laliteshwar Prasad Shahi, former MLA Lalganj, Vaishali, and former MP, Muzaffarpur, as well as former union minister of state for human resource development] was killed in the office of the deputy collector--block development officer (BDO) -- of Vaishali, allegedly by the party workers of the ruling Janata Dal.

The city of Muzaffarpur in north Bihar has been famous for being a seat of Bhumihar landlords and politicians, and infamous for many Bhumihar gangsters

The city of Muzaffarpur in north Bihar has been famous for being a seat of Bhumihar landlords and politicians, and infamous for many Bhumihar gangsters. In fact, the history of Muzaffarpur will remain incomplete until a history of the crime within the social sphere is written. The killing of Hemant Shahi (1992), and of the Shukla brothers, immediately after Lalu coming to power in 1990, came to be seen as a political conspiracy of the ‘backwards’ to outdo the upper castes. Brij Bihari Prasad, belonged to Adapur (Champaran), came from a backward caste, was an engineer, and is said to have been