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Prompt police action saves Biharsharif 

Once the name 'Nalanda' resembled with pen, paper and words of wisdom. The oldest Indian educational institute of great significant, remembered as Nalanda University, has become synonymous with education and discipline. Whenever the name is pronounced, the tranquil memories of a bygone era overcome any other feeling. But things have not remained the same for this central Bihar district over the years. Now the district has changed into a university of violence and communal hatred. Particularly the town of Bihar Sharif in the district has achieved the distinction of being one of the communally most sensitive cities in the state.

Communal tension flared up in the city following the attempts of a group to construct a temple on the land of Bihar Waqf Board near Amber Chowk area on 9 October. The mob that consisted of thousands of people tried to take control of a land of Bihar Waqf Board, installed a Durga idol and started construction of a temple on the usurped land. When the police intervened and took control of the idol, the enraged mob wanted to continue construction by force. But police resisted and did not allow this to happen. 

The land belongs to the Sughra Estate and was later given to the Waqf Board. It seems from the sequence of events that the incident was preplanned. Activists of Bajrang Dal seized the opportunity of Durga Puja and managed to install a five-feet high Durga idol on the place. Following the using usurpation tactic, the idol was claimed to have ‘miraculously’ appeared on the spot just as the Ram Lalla idol had ‘appeared’ in the Babri Masjid some 52 years back. Bajrang Dal activists organized kar seva and gathered more than 10,000 people to attend this function. They also built a 10-feet high brick wall around the idol. 

Following the incident, the mob went on rampage in the whole city burning shops and houses of the minority community. Dozens were injured in incidents of arson and stone pelting that followed.

Police fired several rounds to quell the mob from the majority community that indulged in looting, arson and blocked vehicular traffic by burning tyres and other goods on roads. Several people were injured in police firing and armed encounters that followed between police and militants belonging to the majority community. A person was killed following a similar incident.

When the administration removed the idol of Durga from the land belonging to the Bihar Waqf Board and the news spread, people from the majority community came out on to the streets to demonstrate police’s justified act. A mob attacked the district magistrate’s residence. They had to retreat when policemen manning DM’s residence opened fire on the mob which was trying to force its way to the house. The mob also damaged the signboard at SP’s house and tried to enter into the circuit house.

The administration clamped a curfew on the whole city and it has not been fully withdrawn till now and rescue and investigation teams from outside the city are still not allowed to get in. The news of losses has started trickling in. This time round, due to the alertness of the police, the city was saved from another war-like situation which had developed in the city during the 1978 riots. Muslims of the city have not forgotten the trauma they had to face during those turbulent times. A large number of Muslims were massacred in the bout of riot that was forced upon them in 1978.

Though the quantum of loss is not yet known, it is bound to be not very insignificant. Several people have been reportedly killed and a good number of Muslim business houses have been destroyed. A whole Muslim family on its way back from Patna was forced to get out of the bus near Bihar Sharif by a mob. Muhammad Aslam, who was being accompanied by his wife, mother-in-law and his children, succeeded in making good his escape, but his relatives including his children and wife were not so fortunate. The fate of his children, wife and mother-in-law is still unknown. 

The city was saved by the prompt action of the administration and the police. The deployment of army and Rapid Action Forced also contributed to a great extent in controlling and normalizing the situation in the town. But district administration would have saved the city from this riot if it had taken steps before allowing the situation to go out of control. The city administration stood mute spectators while hoodlums built makeshift place of worship and even carried out kar seva on the land of Waqf Board.

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