Bihar is fast returning to a state of lawlessness with the crime graph on the upside. On Monday evening, motorbike-borne goons travelled for 30 kilometres on the national highway after spraying bullets on pedestrians in Begusarai district. One pedestrian was killed and nine others were injured in the firing.
The state police was caught unawares and the goons are yet to be caught. Seven police sub-inspectors heading patrol teams were suspended on charge of dereliction of duty. The goons had passed through the areas where these patrol teams were supposed to be on duty. India TV reporter later found that the wireless set in one of the police vehicles was not working. Police earlier said, there were two gunmen on a bike, but later while checking CCTV footage, it was found there were four gunmen riding two motorbikes.
At around 4 pm, the gunmen on motorbikes arrived at Malhipur Chowk in Begusarai town and opened fire at several shops in the busy area. In panic, people ran helter-skelter to protect themselves, even as several shopkeepers fled, leaving their shops open. The goons travelled a distance of 30 km from Bachhwara to Chakia in Begusarai crossing four police station areas.
The first firing took place in Bachhwara, where Vishal Kumar, a 26-year-old employee of a finance company was shot at. The second to hit by a bullet was 30-year-old Gautam Kumar in Teghara. The third firing took place in Fulwaria Moti Chowk, where a young man, Deepak Kumar was shot in his back. The fourth firing incident took place in Chakia.
The names of the nine injured persons are: Rohit Kumar, Ranjit Kumar, Vishal Kumar, Prashant Kumar Rajak, Gaurav Kumar, Deepak Chaudhary, Bharat Yadav, Amarjit Das, and Amarjit Kumar alias Jitu. Among those injured was a driver of an LPG agency, an ice cream vendor, a ‘paan’ (betel) seller, a shepherd and a member of a panchayat.
Begusarai SP Yogendra Kumar said, four special teams have been set up to arrest the goons. Five persons have been detained and the district borders have been sealed. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar summoned Director General of Police S K Singhal to his residence and directed that the goons be caught immediately.
There were four police stations on the route, and one of the firing incidents took place at a spot 500 metres away from a police station. The goons were not hiding their faces, and police teams are trying to trace them with the help of photographs. Senior officials claimed that when the firing spree began, an alert was given on police wireless network, but police did not swing into action.
CCTV footage from Bachhwara toll plaza shows the gunmen sitting on motorbike driving without any fear, and firing at pedestrians. The firing spree went on for nearly 40 minutes, but police did not stop them at any single point. The last footage was that of the goons fleeing from NTPC Chowk towards the road leading to Patna.
It is really surprising that police did not act for nearly 40 minutes when the firing spree went on. The victims were hit by bullets in their arms, legs, stomach and lower parts of the body. The injured victims were lying near the road, groaning in agony. Police did send some of the injured to hospitals, while local residents took some of those injured in autorickshaws.
One eyewitness said the gunmen appeared to be drunk, while some others alleged that a police patrolling party was on the highway, the policemen saw the criminals, but did not try to stop them.
Begusarai SP Yogendra Kumar admitted that the patrolling teams in Bachhwara, Teghara, Fulwaria and Barauni police station areas did not respond immediately. He said, policemen at FCI outpost, Chakia outpost and Zero Mile outpost were also found negligent in their duty.
An alert has been issued to find out the whereabouts of the gunmen in Patna, Samastipur, Nalanda, Lakhisarai, Khagaria and Begusarai. The Additional DGP of Bihar Police said, prima facie there appears to be no apparent motive of robbery, personal enmity, or targeted firing. The ADG said, police got “a brief period” of 30 minutes and could not respond immediately. This remark is surprising. Eyewitnesses have said, they told the police team on the highway to stop the goons, but police did not take action.
India TV reporter Nitish Chandra met police sub-inspector Krishna Kumar of Teghara police station. He has been suspended for dereliction of duty. Krishna Kumar told our reporter that he was not on patrol duty during the crime, he was inside the police station, and was waiting for the police vehicle to go on patrol duty. He said, he had no knowledge about the firing spree, because no such info was passed on to his police station.
Our reporter also met Sanjay Kumar posted at Barauni police station. He was on highway duty, he was present on the highway when the firing spree took place, the goons sped away on their bike in his presence. Sanjay Kumar says, he had no information about the firing, when the goons sped away in his presence. “How can we catch them? There are hundreds of bikes that pass through? Is it written on anybody’s forehead that he has come after a firing spree?”, he said.
Sub-inspector Mukru Hembram, posted at Zero Mile outpost, and now suspended, says, he was patrolling on the highway, but he got news about the firing spree, only when a large crowd collected. Hembram told our reporter, “It is all rubbish that the info about the firing spree was given on wireless set. I have not committed any mistake. Senior officials, in order to save their jobs, are making us scapegoats”.
At Fulwaria police station, India TV reporter Nitish Chandra found a patrolling jeep. When he enquired whether the wireless set was working in the vehicle, the policeman first said, everything was alright, but when our reporter insisted on checking how the wireless set worked, the policemen sitting in the jeep, fumbled. The wireless set was not working. No messages were coming on the set. The policeman said, he was a driver, and only an operator can operate the set.
Wireless sets in police vehicles were not working, and this could be one of the reasons why police could not stop the goons from fleeing on a 30 kilometre stretch of national highway.
On Wednesday, BJP workers staged protests in Begusarai. The local BJP MP Giriraj Singh, who is also the Union Rural Development Minister, airdashed to the town, and joined the funeral of Chandan Kumar, the person who was slain. 32-year-old Chandan Kumar is an NTPC employee. He was returning from duty in the evening, when the bullet hit him. He died on the spot. In anguish, Giriraj Singh, the minister, said, ‘Chandan Kumar’s misfortune is that he was born in the state of Bihar”.
Giriraj Singh, along with party workers, sat on dharna at Mahadev Chowk in Begusarai. He demanded Rs 1 crore ex-gratia assistance for Chandan Kumar’s family and a job for his widow. He also demanded Rs 50 lakh assistance for those injured. “Who will help the ice cream vendor, the paanwallah, the LPG agency driver, who were hit by bullets?’, he said.
Leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly Vijay Kumar Sinha met the injured people in hospital. He alleged that “crime is taking the form of terrorism in Bihar. Never did such incidents occur before”. But, RJD MLA Rajbanshi Mahto, who also met those injured, said, “This incident could be part of a conspiracy to defame the government.”
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also said, “whatever happened in Begusarai was pre-planned and deliberate. It is definitely a conspiracy. The firing took place in a Muslim-dominated locality, where people of backward classes live.” In other words, the chief minister was alleging that Muslims and backward classes were the targets of the gunmen.
Whatever happened in Begusarai on Tuesday evening was a ‘filmy’ style crime. The gunmen were riding motorbikes, and spraying bullets on people, and the police vehicles with sirens screaming, reached the spots, only when the killers had fled.
The most surprising reaction was from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He said, it could be a conspiracy because it happened in a locality, where Muslims and backward class people lived.
I have a very simple question for Nitish Kumar: Can the gunmen speeding on motorbikes for 30 kilometres differentiate Muslims and backward class people from others among the crowds? Is this not a mockery? Are the people of Bihar moving around with their caste and religion tags on their heads? If the Chief Minister of a state looks at a criminal act from the angle of religion and caste, what will happen to the investigation?
If the Chief Minister raises issue of caste and religion, will the investigating police officers ask the goons about their religion and caste? It is nothing but a shame that goons went on firing on a 30-kilometre stretch for 40 minutes, and yet the police failed to catch them.
After running a government in Bihar for 17 years, does Nitish Kumar need lessons on how to deal with criminals? He could at least take a lesson of two from the chief minister of his neighbouring state, Uttar Pradesh, and spend some time there. He can find out how Yogi’s government has struck fear in the hearts of criminals.
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