January 4, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Bihar in flames
Patna, January 3
Government offices were burnt and vehicles torched by the mob as the police fired in the air, lobbed teargas shells and caned the mob that went berserk and resorted to rioting and arson today, officials said.
Reports of violence and battle between the police and the protesters trickled in from most parts of the state. Hundreds of rounds and teargas shells were fired all over the state to control the mob. More than a dozen vehicles were burnt, two government offices set afire and a police outpost attacked by the mob.
The Opposition BJP leaders claimed that over 100 of its activists were hurt in the police caning, including the state Leader of Opposition, Mr Shushil Modi, Mr C.P. Thakur and two NDA legislators. The police on the other hand claimed that the mob pelted stones on it from rooftops leaving at least 50 policemen injured.
The police arrested a number of strikers as they breached Section 144 of the CrPC clamped on the state capital.
Senior BJP leaders had a miraculous escape when the mob set afire the bus carrying them after their arrest here.
Escorted by the Rapid Action Force and the police, the bus was attacked by the mob with petrol bombs. The bus caught fire, trapping the leaders inside.However, the occupants, including legislators Sukhda Pandey, Giriraj Singh, Ganga Prasad Singh and several others, managed to escape by breaking windowpanes.
Earlier, the leaders after their arrest were stranded in the bus for more than two hours following the pitched battle between the police, the RAF and the agitators.
More than 1,000 arrests have been made all over the state. The mob torched a police jeep at Ara town, 75 km from here in which a policeman was sitting, the police said. The policeman received around 65 per cent burns and had been admitted to hospital. The mob also torched three government vehicles at Ara.
A protester had been admitted to a Patna hospital in a critical condition. The youth received injuries as the mob pelted stones, the police said.
The police had to fire 21 rounds in the air as the mob attacked the Dumri police post in Patna. The police also used teargas shells to chase away the crowd.
The mob torched two buses and other vehicles in the capital. “The mob tried to torch an office of the Public Health Department and another office of the water supply works,” a police official said.
An employee of the office, Mr N. K. Singh said: “40-50 persons armed with sticks and carrying petrol in bottles entered the office around 12 noon and tried to torch the office. They also set afire a jeep outside the office.”
The Sammelan market, where the encounter had taken place was set on fire for the third time. The mob threw burning tyres and bottles filled with petrol, the police said.
The main confrontation between the mob and the police took place in the Ashiananagar locality from where the three killed youths belonged. Women and children also came out on the streets to fight with the police.
In the old city areas, the mob hurled bombs towards the police. No casualty has been reported. The police claimed several of its men were injured.
Life in the state remained paralysed with the Railways halting all trains in the state. The administration clamped partial curfew on the capital. The entire state has been provided with unprecedented security cover. “Two companies of the riot police and 10,000 state police have been deployed in the state capital itself,” the state DGP, Mr R.R. Prasad, said.
Three anti-riot vehicles and 10 fire engines had been patrolling the streets.
“In view of the safety of passengers all trains running in the state on Friday from 6 am to 6 pm have been stopped,” the General Manager of Eastern Railway, Mr S.C. Gupta, said.
Reports reaching from various parts of the state said violence took place in several areas, including Sasaram, Nalanda, Muzaffarpur, Purnia and Saharsa districts.
The police said the general strike passed peacefully without major violence. The day passed off peacefully and no major incident took place apart from stray incidents of violence,” the DGP said.
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