Repression and Callousness Claim Lives in Bihar: Nitish Kumar’s ‘Sushasan’ Exposed

Less than a week after Nitish Kumar had secured the trust vote for his government with the help of the Congress, CPI and four independent MLAs, Bihar experienced yet another shocking case of police brutality. On 24 June as many as six persons belonging to the Tharu community in Bagaha district near Nepal border in North-Western Bihar were gunned down by the trigger-happy Bihar police. At least 15 people have been seriously injured. And not long after, the horrific Mid-day Meal massacre, compounded by sheer absence of basic health services, claimed the lives of some 29 schoolchildren.

Nitish Raj’s Brutality and Arrogance

Agitated by the lack of police response to find a local youth who had gone missing since June 15, people had thronged the nearby police station at Naurangiya (Bagaha) and once again the police knew no other way of tackling the agitated people except opening fire. They opened fire without any warning and they did it not to disperse the people but to kill. All the people killed had bullet injuries above the waist level.

The Naurangiya firing is by no means an isolated case in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar. His track record of ‘good governance’ has been routinely punctuated by periodic instances of police brutality. Batraha, Bhajanpur (Forbesganj), Aurangabad, Madhubani and now Naurangiya – there have been several major cases of police brutality during Nitish Kumar’s second term. The pattern is reinforced by the impunity enjoyed by the police. In the case of the infamous Forbesganj firing, some of the guilty officials actually received a promotion. More than two years since the firing, the judicial inquiry commission is yet to submit its report and the survivors are being prevented by all means from deposing before the commission.

In the Aurangabad case of 2nd May 2012, in which hundreds of people were brutally beaten up by the police with CPI(ML) leader and ex-MLA Rajaram Singh being singled out for a brutal physical assault led directly by the SP, the state human rights commission (SHRC) has indicted the administration for police excesses and slapped a fine of Rs 200,000 on the state government. But instead of complying with the order of the SHRC the state government is busy pursuing a false case against Rajaram Singh and many others. In Madhubani, CPI(ML) leader Dhruv Narayan Karn and scores of students and activists belonging to various opposition parties have been in jail for months together since the police went berserk on 12-13 October 2012.

The other feature that stands out in all these cases of police brutality is the arrogant disdain with which Nitish Kumar has been justifying the police brutality without ever bothering to visit any place of police firing or talking to the aggrieved people. In 2005 Kumar had launched his statewide ‘Nyay Yatra’ from the Tharu-dominated areas of Champaran, appealing to the people of Bihar to ensure justice by bringing him to power. Now ensconced in power for nearly eight long years, he is paying back his ‘debt’ by imposing a veritable police raj on the people of Bihar.

Yet the changed political equations in Bihar have made it difficult for the arrogant and authoritarian regime to ignore the voice of the people with its characteristic contemptuous nonchalance. On 27th June Bihar observed a day’s bandh at the call of CPI(ML) and other Left forces demanding immediate institution of a judicial probe, and prosecution of all guilty police officials under section 302 of IPC and adequate provision of compensation and rehabilitation for the families of those killed and injured in police firing. For the first time in recent history, the government has announced some primary level action against some officials and compensation worth Rs 4 lakh for every victim while agreeing to set up a judicial probe. Equally interesting has been the BJP’s response – the party that has routinely justified every police action while in power is now talking of police high-handedness. Some BJP leaders are now demanding compensation for the victims of Forbesganj firing as well.

The Bagaha firing once again corroborated the authoritarian nature of the Nirish Kumar government. At the same time now that this government has been reduced to a minority with the split in the ruling alliance it has visibly also become susceptible to popular pressure. The government that has betrayed and failed the people on almost every count must now be encircled by surging waves of popular resistance.

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