In a severe action against police negligence, 5 Station House Officers (SHOs) of Bihar’s Munger have been removed from their post for their laxity that resulted in the violent clashes between devotees and police personnel during the Durga immersion ritual, leading to the death of a student and injuries to many others.
The Station House Officers (SHOs) of Muffasil, Basudeopur, Kotwali, Kashimbazar and Purabsarai police stations were transferred after the police and the district administration held them responsible and recommended their removal.
A senior officer privy to the development said that the report of the incident made it clear that the officers were careless in responding to the situation in Munger town. Timely intervention could have avoided the escalation and prevent the violent turn of events, the officer claimed.
Since the model code of conduct is in force, the district administration has sought the Election Commission’s permission for their removal.
Munger violence incident
According to the reports, violence broke out between the police officials and devotees after Kotwali police asked Hindus not to delay the idol immersion procession of Shadipur Badi Durga on the night of October 26, 2020. Traditionally, the idols are immersed after three days of Vijayadashami but this time, in view of the first phase of Assembly polls in the state on Wednesday, the administration had insisted on the immersion by 5 am on Tuesday.
Durga puja organizers, as instructed, had taken out the procession allegedly with DJs close to midnight as they headed for the immersion. The situation turned ugly around 11.50 pm when police officials used brutal force on Hindus going for Durga Puja Visarjan.
The police reportedly unilaterally beat up four persons who were carrying idols on their shoulders. This sparked off a protest which led to the ensuing violence. The videos of the incident had quickly gone viral. In the videos, one can see police officials raining batons even as devotees scurried to protect their deity’s idol from being damaged by the lathi-charge.
An 18-year-old youth was killed and scores of others injured in the firing that took place on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday. 20 policemen including SHOs of Sangarmpur, Kotwali, Kasim Bazar, Basudeopur police stations were also injured in the ensuing violence.
SIT formed to assess the damage caused by the mob that retaliated against police action in Munger
Three days later, on October 29, a furious mob retaliated against the police brutality by setting off police stations on fire, vandalising public property and torching several vehicles. About 16 FIRs have been registered till date and more than 160 have been named as accused in the case, including six police personnel, CISF officials and about 3,000 unidentified people.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted by Munger ranger DIG Manu Maharaaj under the supervision of district SP Manavjit Singh Dhillon to probe the entire matter. The SIT has been tasked with the responsibility of assessing the damage caused to public properties. by the rampaging mob, who torched the police stations, vandalised police vehicles and ransacked SDO and SP’s office and residences.
As per reports, the damage caused by the rioting mob will be recovered from the culprits. Munger SP, in a meeting with SIT members, asked them to collect evidence against the accused with the help of CCTV footage. The district SP Dhillon has asked officials to furnish separate reports on the damaged properties and submit the same to the court. He adds that no arrests have been made in the case to avoid a backlash, claiming that the removed SHOs have been transferred to other police stations.
Complaint filed against Munger DM Rajesh Meena, SP Lipi Singh, SDO and SHOs
A complaint has been filed against former Munger SP Lipi Singh and several other police officials in a local court over the incident of police brutality on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami, Hindi daily Prabhat Khabar has reported. The complaint mentions seven police officials by name including Lipi Singh and current SDO Khageshchand Jha.
The complaint has been filed by one Kelu Yadav aka Dayanand Kumar through advocating Nirmal Kumar. The complaint names SP Lipi Singh, SHO Khageshchand Jha, Krishna Kumar, Dharmendra Kumar, Kotwali officer-in-charge Santosh Kumar Singh, Kasim Bazaar officer-in-charge Shailesh Kumar and Mufassil officer-in-charge Brajesh Kumar as accused.
Meanwhile, a complaint has also been filed by an RTI activist Om Prakash Poddar with the Bihar State legal service authority (BSLSA), exhorting them to file an FIR against DM Rajesh Meena, SP Lipi Singh, SDO, SHOs and deputed magistrates for opening fire and ordering lathi-charge against the devotees.
In the wake of the complaint, BSLSA’s secretary Akhilesh Pandey has demanded a complete report from Munger SP. A report from CISF shattered the assertions made by Munger SP Lipi Singh about the violence in the town on October 26. Singh had claimed that the firing started from within the mob. However, the report by the CISF said that the local police were the first ones to open fire. It also revealed that after the situation got out of control, they even fired in the air to disperse the mob.
The CISF report, which was issued on October 27, a day after the incident, said that at the request of Munger Kotwali police station, a detachment of CISF troops was sent to the district school for the protection of the Durga immersion procession ceremony. The report mentions that the phalanx of troops sent by CISF that contained 20 personnel was divided into two groups of 10 each. One of the groups was posted along with SSB and Bihar Police personnel at Deendayal Upadhyay Chowk, Munger.
The report claims that the dispute between the devotees and police began at around 11:45 pm on the night of October 26, 2020. It states that some people started pelting stones on police and security forces after which the Munger Police opened the first fire.
The report says that CISF head constable M Gangaiah fired 13 rounds of bullets from his INSAS rifle. The firing by the personnel dispersed the crowd following which the personnel of CISF, SSB and local police returned to their camp.