December 13th, 2016
On Thursday, Police in Bhagalpur, Bihar lathi-charged a group of villagers who had been sitting on hunger strike for the past three days.
Nearly 500 people from the Dalit community gathered in front of District Magistrate office in Bhagalpur on December 5 to demand land. The government had previously promised all the Dalit communities land for their homes. But the land mafia encroached upon the allocated land. They were also displaced by the devastating floods this year. They were among the 23.71 lakh people rendered homeless in what was the worst flood in the past decade, which submerged 20 of the 38 districts in the state.
Five out of the assembled people were on an indefinite hunger strike. There was no attention by the district administration even after three days. Frustrated by the inaction, some people pushed into the office premises. When the police officers intervened, few people pelted stones at them. This led to a full-fledged lathi charge by the police. Men, women, senior citizens, no one, was spared. They were kicked, beaten, and dragged mercilessly. Many lay on the road naked and injured. The tents were dismantled, and chaos was created outside DM’s office with people pelting stones on police officers amidst lathi charge, as reported by Dainik Bhaskar.
Police and security personnel from the neighbouring police stations also joined to control the crowd. The entire melee lasted for an hour. Along with the protestors the Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO), ICDS District Procurement Officer (DPO) and close to 30 police personnel were injured.
“The people started violence first by pelting stones at policemen standing nearby. While their demands are already under consideration, the violent method was uncalled for,” said Kumar Anuj, the SDO (Sadar) of Bhagalpur, as reported by New Indian Express.
People who were injured were sent to the hospital by ambulances, and six people have been arrested. Some people are claiming that the peaceful protest was intentionally disrupted. They claim that the stone pelting miscreants are not part of the protesting group. The opposition has requested the Chief Miniter Nitish Kumar to have the matter investigated.
Did the people who started the riot really not belong to the protester group? What steps will be taken to provide housing for the villagers? Will the land mafia be punished at all? Many unanswered questions remain.
We need to understand the pain of the people who have been homeless for many months. As winter approaches, it will only get worse for them. While we do not condone protests in any way, we do wish that such harsh measures were not used by the police. Even if the crowd had to be dispersed, kicking and beating senior citizens and children was not the way to do it.
The Logical Indian requests that there be a fair probe into the matter.