Nearly 120 km from Patna, the town of Rosera is still trying to make sense of an outbreak of violence. On the evening of March 25, more than 200 people held a Durga immersion procession — a routine, peaceful annual event.
Within the next 24 hours, violence broke out – there was stone throwing, attempted burning of mosques, and one policeman was grievously injured. Multiple townspeople were injured in intense stone pelting between two communities. All three of the town’s mosque bore signs of damage and burns.
The opposition has pointed to a pattern of the BJP inciting crowds in Bihar as violence has spread to at least five districts. The locals who witnessed the events, have made similar allegations.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who runs the government in alliance with the BJP, has made it clear that no one responsible for the violence will be spared. “There are some people who think that causing tension in the society will bring in electoral dividends. We believe in peace and harmony,” he has said.
Multiple eye-witnesses have claimed the trigger was the throwing of a footwear on the procession as it crossed a mosque. A resident, Bhola Sahu, who claims that “someone from their (Muslim) community” was responsible.
The secretary of the mosque Mohammad Fareed Ali Ansari said the throwing of the footwear was an isolated incident, and could not be a reason to attack an entire community. A section of the locals have told the police that members of the local BJP unit and right wing groups are responsible for escalating the issue.
The locals and mosque authorities say the clash started after members of the BJP and Bajrang Dal arrived at the mosque the next day. “Around 20-50 people from Bajrang Dal came and attacked our mosque,” said mosque secretary Mr Ansari. The First Information Report of the police also says that.
The first accused named in the FIR, Mohan Patwa, is a member of the BJP.
“I can say that of the 54 people arrested, 10 must be from BJP and the rest are students. They are all innocent,” said Ramsumiran Singh, district president of the BJP in Samastipur. All 54 have been charged for inciting violence and promoting enmity between two communities.
In a video, recorded by eyewitnesses another BJP member, Dinesh Jha, is heard exhorting the crowd. Chants of “Jai Shri Ram” and provocative slogans can be heard. He is yet to be arrested. In one video, a man is seen climbing one of the mosques to plant a national flag, which was later taken down.
The police are using the videos for investigation. “We are investigating the matter based on the video footage we have,” Deepak Ranjan, the police chief of Samastipur, told NDTV.
In Bhagalpur, also afflicted by rioting, the police first booked, and eventually arrested Arijit Shashwat, son of BJP’s Union Minister Ashwini Choubey, for leading a mob. In Aurangabad, Anil Singh, a BJP worker was amongst those arrested. He later escaped from police custody, according to reports.
Six days later, Rosera is still tense. The internet has been shut down till April 1 and traders have shut shops indefinitely. “We try opening the shops but people from the Bajrang Dal come and ask us to shut shop,” said Mehdi Hasan, a resident of the village.