Bihar: Union Minister’s Son Takes Out Procession Without Permission, Communal Clashes Erupt
A warrant against Arijit Shashwat, son of Union Minister of State (MoS) Ashwini Kumar Choubey, and eight others was issued for triggering communal clashes in Bhagalpur town on March 17. Shashwat led a procession of BJP, RSS and Bajrang Dal workers on the eve of Hindu New Year.
The procession organised by Bharatiya Navvarsh Jagran Samiti passed through a 15 km route that also included about half a dozen Muslim-dominated areas. Shashwat and the other participants are accused of raising provoking slogans that led to communal clashes in the Medini Chowk, a Muslim dominated area.
Shashwat has denied the allegations.
Warrant against Shashwat and 8 others for triggering communal clashes
On March 17, the motorcycle procession led by Shashwat was passing through the Medini Chowk at about 3:45 pm, and around this time, stone pelting reportedly started.
The Muslim-dominated area of Medini Chowk comes under Nathnagar police station. Sanjeev Kumar, Lalmatia post in-charge, who was deployed in Nathnagar said that provoking slogans raised by the participants could have triggered the violence.
An FIR against the accused was filed, following which, on March 24, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) Anjani Kumar Srivastava issued warrants based on the application filed by Nathnagar police station against the nine who were named in one of the FIRs.
Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) Viresh Mishra said, “Warrants were also issued against Abhay Kumar Ghosh, Sonu, Pramod Verma Pammy, Dev Kumar Pandey, Sanjay Bhatt, Surendra Pathak, Amit Lal Sah and Pranav Sah alias Pranav Das.”
Bhagalpur Senior Superintendent of Police, Manoj Kumar said that they have received the copy of court’s order and that the accused would be arrested soon.
Shashwat has also been named in the FIR for taking out the procession without prior permission from the administration.
About 200 central paramilitary personnel, including riot police, were sent to Bhagalpur to assist the local administration. A Home Ministry official also said that 100 personnel of the Rapid Action Force and 100 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force have also been sent to Bihar.
The stone pelting, which continued for 45 minutes, injured about three policemen.
A police officer of Nathnagar police station told The Indian Express, “Despite our best efforts, the stone-pelting continued for about 45 minutes.”
Nathnagar police station in-charge Mohammed Janifuddin said,“We are trying to identify lumpen elements. We have also been talking to the two communities.”
The RJD and the Congress disrupted the functioning of the Bihar Assembly last week, seeking the arrest of the culprits.
Bhagalpur is communally a sensitive area. In 1989, in one of the most horrific communal clashes, more than 1,000 people had lost their lives.
Shashwat denies allegations
Shashwat has denied the allegation that his participants raised provoking slogans that ultimately led to the clashes. He said, “It was a motorcycle procession. I was about 3-4 kms from the spot when the stone-pelting took place. The police jeep was moving ahead of me. You can check video clips of the incident to confirm what I am saying.”
Sanjeev Kumar, one of the participants in the procession and a local BJP leader said, “As some of the participants kept shouting slogans, some Muslims reacted. After some time, there was stone pelting.”
Shashwat’s father, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Union MoS for Health and Family Welfare defended his son and told The Indian Express, “I am proud that Arijit is my son. All BJP workers are like my son. Is there anything wrong in leading a procession to celebrate the Hindu New Year? Kya Bharat Ma ki baat karna galat hai? Kya Vande Mataram kehna gunah hai? (Is it a crime to talk about Bharat Ma? Is it a crime to say Vande Mataram?).”
Calling the FIRs false, Choubey said, “Mere bete ne koi ganda kaam nahi kiya. FIR toh jhut ka pulinda hai, uspe kyun surrender karega? (My son has not done anything wrong. The FIR is a bunch of lies. Why would he surrender on the basis of it?)” Ashwini Kumar was quoted as saying by ANI. “Arijit kahin chupa hua nahi hai. Wo aaj apne gaon bhi gaya aur bhagwan Ram ki aarti bhi utari (Arijit is not hiding anywhere. He went to his village today and prayed to Lord Ram).”