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‘Shahid asthi yatra': Heightening tension through funerals for votes


Funeral of democratic discourse?

Funeral of democratic discourse?

Patna: the formula is simple – while the leaders and the public face of the party puts up sober behaviour, the hoods and the underlings carry out the planned mischief, heightening tensions even when the target of a riot is difficult to achieve. No wonder Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has censured his political rival, the BJP, whose party workers are marching to the Ganga with the ashes of six people who were killed in Sunday’s blasts ahead of a rally held by Narendra Modi in Patna.  Modi, the BJP’s candidate for prime minister, is visiting the homes of those who died. The chief minister accused the BJP of trying to instigate communal tension with its “Santavana Yatra” which is scheduled to end on Tuesday with the ashes of the victims being immersed in the Ganga. “This is what the BJP wants…to vitiate the atmosphere.  But we will not allow our harmony to be undermined,” Mr Kumar said.

Nitish must however ask himself the question – why did he never think of visiting at least some of the victim’s families or even the hospital in Patna where the injured are still lying?

The ashes of six Patna blast victims, the BJP’s ongoing processions with the ashes across six districts and the imminent arrival of the party’s lead player, Narendra Modi, in Bihar are making many in the state extremely uneasy. Despite the Hindu nationalist party’s claims to the contrary, the state administration is wary of the ‘shahid asthi yatra’ [martyrs’ ashes procession] stirring communal passions.

Bihar officials said the processions and Modi’s second visit to Bihar within a week were stretching the resources of the state’s security agencies amid heightened concerns following the blasts. “There is no specific intelligence input to suggest something untoward is on the anvil during the ‘asthi yatras’, but we are on guard and keeping our fingers crossed,” said SK Bhardwaj, state additional director general of police [law & order].

Security agencies are worried that even if BJP leaders exercise restraint, there are simply too many uncontrollable factors. For instance, the procession that started from Simrahi bazaar in Supaul (north Bihar), the home of blast victim Bharat Rajak, is scheduled to pass through Madhubani, Darbhanga and Samastipur. All three districts have a substantial Muslim population.

Intelligence sources reminded that Darbhanga was once the playground of Indian Mujahideen leader Yasin Bhatkal, who is now in custody. BJP leaders on Thursday flagged off the ‘yatras’, numbering six, from the village of each of the victims, ahead of Modi’s visit to Bihar beginning late night on Friday. Party state president Mangal Pandey said the ‘yatras’, set to crisscross the state before concluding in Patna on November 5, were a homage to the six martyrs to the party cause.

Pandey said the message being disseminated through the six yatras was one of peace and social harmony. “Our message is terror blasts don’t discriminate between Hindus and Muslims.” He said three Muslim supporters of the BJP were among those injured in the blasts. “They are undergoing treatment at the BJP’s expense.” He said the blame for fomenting trouble should lie with the BJP’s opponents.

The other yatras have started from villages of the other four victims – Munna Srivastava (Bari Dhanesh in northwest Bihar’s Gopalganj district); Bindeshwari Chaudhary (Tara Bariarpur in Begusarai district of north Bihar); Rajesh Kumar (Ahiyapur in Nalanda district of south central Bihar); Rajnarain Singh (Kamarji in Patna district).


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