The small town of Lalganj, in Bihar, experienced a horrible tragedy and violence on the streets following a driving incident on 17th of November 2015. The incident spawned dangerous rumours, which boiled over into rampant violence – leading to the death of at least five people. The town, with a population of about 37 thousand according to the Indian Census 2011, witnessed the tragedy just hours before the swearing-in of Nitish Kumar.
It all began when a young man lost control of his vehicle.
The man, 19-year-old Mohammed Rizwan lost control of his minivan and crashed into the side of a house, instantly killing 65-year-old businessman Rajendra Sah and his 8-month-old granddaughter Maya. Soon after word of the accident spread, communal rumours began cooking together that Rizwan had been let off by the police after preliminary inquiries, without more rigorous investigating.
Reporters on site found that, within hours of the incident, over a thousand people took to the streets in a fatal clash with the police that killed two teenaged boys – 19-year-old Rakesh, and 17-year-old Vikas Kumar. Kumar was shot and killed by sub-inspector Ajit Kumar, whom the public beat to death in a subsequent lynching mob.
Police “re-arrested” Rizwan, intensifying their investigation. “Our first priority is maintain law and order,” said Bihar region General of Police P. K. Thakur. “All top police officers have visited the spot and we are looking into all possible angles.”
A senior police officer quoted: “We are studying video footage of the incident to identify the culprits. No one has been named so far in the First Information Report. But we are suspecting the involvement of people with political affiliations from either community.”
Lynching isn’t uncommon in India, where a recent rise in outrage over rapists and “cow killers” has led to several deaths, alongside calls of nationalism and some Islamophobia, as the Washington Post notes.
According to some local residents, the root of the incident may have been in regional politics. “The owner of the pick-up van (that Rizwan was driving) Nanhe Khan, was a supporter of the JD-U’s Mahaghatbandhan. There had been some tension after the NDA candidate, LJP’s Rajkumar Sah, defeated JD-U’s Anny Shukla, wife of local leader Munna Shukla, in the recent assembly elections,” said one of the residents, Manoj Yadav.
Police said that after Rizwan’s vehicle killed two people, a mob of people tracked Rizwan and Khan, and targeted their homes and those of three nearby relatives. Rizwan, despite rumours, hadn’t been released but merely moved to a different station – but the situation worsened nonetheless, as arson and vandalism created chaos in the streets, and the communal narrative became quickly muddled.
The police responded by opening fire on the crowd, killing the teens. Ajit Kumar reportedly rushed to help his colleagues, when a mob targeted him. Local resident Ramesh Kumar, an eye witness, described the scene by stating: “The police officer hid in a house and tried to escape but he came out in the open on seeing a group of people engaging in arson. He was caught and beaten to death by wooden sticks and bricks.”
A police officer at the Lalganj station stated: “Sub-inspector Ajit Kumar had gone with a police team to the spot, but was left behind. By the time we saved him from the mob, he had suffered massive internal injuries.”
The situation became confusing and dangerous.
Source credits: Dainik Bhaskar.
More news headlines in Hindi on the topic, here on Dainik Bhaskar.