Patna: Surrounded by hordes of media personnel, Arijit Shashwat, the son of union minister Ashwini Choubey, was arrested late on Saturday night in Bihar’s capital Patna, in connection with the communal clashes in Bhagalpur town in the state two weeks ago.
The 36-year-old BJP leader is accused of leading a Ram Navami procession without permission in Bhagalpur on March 17; provocative slogans were allegedly raised during the procession leading to communal clashes. The violence there is widely seen as the trigger for similar clashes in several parts of the state, and has exposed the Nitish Kumar government to fierce attacks from the Opposition.
Arijit Shashwat, whose petition seeking to shield him from arrest was rejected by a court in Bhagalpur on Saturday, was taken into custody by the police shortly after midnight, barely 300 metres from the Chief Minister’s residence. But not before the young BJP leader, who cops curiously said had been missing despite his many public statements criticising the district administration, spoke unhurriedly to the media.
“I have given myself up to police in deference to the court order. I have been wrongly accused of evading arrest. I was not absconding as I have not committed any crime. If raising slogans in praise of ‘Bharat Mata’ and ‘Sri Ram’ is a crime, then I may be called a criminal,” Arijit Shashwat said. The BJP leader was taken to Bhagalpur where he court today remanded him to 14 days in judicial custody.
Arrest warrants had been issued against Arijit Shashwat soon after the violence on March 17 but the police was seen to be reluctant to arrest him due to political pressure.
His father, minister Ashwini Choubey, had called the FIR against his son as “nothing but a piece of garbage which was registered by corrupt officers of the area.” “Why should I surrender,” Arijit Shashwat had said during an earlier interaction with the media.
As the BJP leader evaded arrest, the Congress taunted Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for being helpless while his former deputy and now leader of opposition Tejashwi Yadav called him a “coward”.
With the Opposition accusing him of going soft on the accused including Arijit Shashwat, the Chief Minister had, earlier this week, said that he wouldn’t compromise on the law and order front, adding that “we are willing to pay any price to restore peace”.