Shutdown in Bihar to protest attacks on journalists


Patna : A day long shutdown called by the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar Friday to protest against the attacks on journalists by ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) legislator Anant Singh and his henchmen affected normal life in the state with clashes between protestors and the police.

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Hundreds of activists belonging to the opposition were arrested for disrupting law and order. There were reports of clashes between supporters of the strike and the police at several places across the state.

“Police have arrested over 400 opposition workers for blocking roads to disrupt normal traffic,” a senior police official said here.

Security personnel were deployed in large numbers across the state to avoid any untoward incident.

The Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) and the Lok Janshakti Party promptly expressed support to the RJD-sponsored strike.

Opposition workers blocked roads at several places in Patna and neighbouring areas to ensure the enforcement of the shutdown.

President of the Bihar Public School and Children’s Welfare Association D.K. Singh said that all the private schools remained closed Friday due to the shutdown.

However, traffic in Patna remained unaffected and many shops and business establishments remained open.

Anant Singh and his supporters had beaten up two journalists who had come to interview him and then attacked several more media persons when they protested against the first attack Thursday.

As political parties condemned the brazen assault, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered the administration to act — albeit five hours late. The police arrested Anant Singh and four others including his personal and official bodyguards.

The chief judicial magistrate here sent Anant Singh – who is seen as a terror in Bihar and who faces over two dozen criminal cases including those of murder – to Patna’s Beur Jail until Nov 13.

“The state government was virtually forced to sent Anant Singh to jail after the hue and cry by media persons and opposition leaders,” RJD leader Shakeel Ahmad Khan said.

It all began when NDTV journalist Prakash Singh and his cameraman Habib Ali went to Anant Singh’s house for his reaction to allegations that he had raped and murdered a young woman, Reshma Khatoon.

The woman had sent a letter to the chief minister, police officials and media persons before her death, accusing Anant Singh, his associate Mukesh Singh and a bodyguard of the legislator of raping her.

Prakash Singh and Habib Ali said they were held hostage for two hours and mercilessly beaten by Anant Singh and his men. Both men were later rushed to a hospital.

“Anant Singh beat us mercilessly and also abused us,” a shaken Prakash Singh later said.

According to witnesses, when other journalists marched to Anant Singh’s residence to denounce the incident, they too came under attack.

The journalists said Anant Singh’s men poured out of his house and beat them with bamboo sticks. As the journalists fled, stones were thrown at them. Some supporters of Anant Singh fired shots in the air.

As news of the attack spread, Nitish Kumar – who has always considered Anant Singh a confidant – became incommunicado. He later said he would ask the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the rape-cum-murder allegation against the JD-U legislator.

In her letter to Nitish Kumar, Reshma, in her early 20s, had alleged that she faced danger to her life.

Reshma’s brother told a TV channel that his sister was raped and killed by Anant Singh. He claimed that the legislator had told him that his sister’s body had been dumped at Patel Nagar, a middle-class locality.

The police later recovered the body of a young woman, suspected to be of Reshma, stuffed in a sack from the area. Her original letter was also found with the body.

Anant Singh, a legislator from Mokama, is known as ‘Chhote Sarkar’ in the area. In 2004, he had brandished an AK-47 rifle in public, though private possession of the assault rifle is illegal.