Bihar faces brunt of Bharat Bandh against fuel price hike

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PATNA, Sept 10 (PTI): Bihar witnessed widespread arson, vandalism and disruption of rail and road traffic during the ‘Bharat Bandh’ against skyrocketing fuel prices, even as the Centre held the protestors responsible for the death of a girl in Jehanabad while being taken to a hospital.

Slamming the Congress, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cited the death of the 2-year-old girl as he claimed the pro-bandh protestors stopped an ambulance and prevented the girl from getting timely medical attention.

He asked whether Congress president Rahul Gandhi would take responsibility for the death.

However, Jehanabad Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) Paritosh Kumar said the death was caused by a delay in finding a vehicle and that once the girl’s father, Pramod Manjhi, got on a three-wheeler, he was not stopped by bandh supporters. Bihar police headquaters too in a statement cited the SDO version as the reason behind Gauri Kumari’s death.

It said her father was bringing the girl, who was suffering from diarrhoea, to Jehanabad, about 70 km from Patna, but she died before they could enter the town.

Manjhi, who appeared to be in a daze over the tragedy, gave conflicting versions to regional news channels. While in one footage, he appeared to be mumbling that he was stopped by bandh supporters at two or three places…for about five to ten minutes. In another one, he was shown as saying ‘I was not stopped anywhere’.

The bereaved father, however, maintained that his daughter would have been alive if they would have reached the hospital a few minutes earlier.

Police claimed to have arrested nearly 700 people across the state for trying to enforce the shutdown, the call for which was given by the Congress. Its alliance partners–Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)– besides the Left parties had extended their support to the protest.

According to a release issued by the DGP control room here, 678 people were held across the state by way of preventive arrests, the maximum number of which took place in Patna district (219) followed by Gopalganj (214), Nalanda (141) and Aurangabad (61).

Madhepura MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party (JAP), though not associated with the Opposition combine, took part in the bandh. Its workers went on the rampage in the state capital where they vandalised cars plying on the roads and roughed up commuters.

The RJD, which had fielded Yadav as its candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but expelled him a year later, quickly sought to dissociate itself from the rampaging JAP activists.

In a veiled attack on Yadav, whose wife Ranjita Ranjan is a Congress MP, RJD heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav tweeted that some agents of the BJP have joined the bandh uninvited and they were indulging in hooliganism.

Yadav, leader of opposition, also hit the streets during the bandh and said under the present dispensation, the people of the country cannot hope to get any respite from the soaring prices.

The Narendra  Modi government has only the interests of the corporates in mind. This bandh, called by our alliance partner, is a spontaneous expression of public anger, he said.

Meanwhile, Bihar BJP unit president Nityanand Rai and Janata Dal (United) spokesmen Neeraj Kumar and Sanjay Singh tweeted and gave statements decrying the “unruly behaviour” of the bandh supporters and alleged the incidents have reminded the people of the state of the “lawlessness that prevailed during the 15-year-long RJD rule in Bihar”.

Movement of trains was also affected in various parts of the state. A release issued by the East Central Railway (ECR) zone headquartered in Hajipur said at some places, bandh supporters had blocked the movement of trains from as early as around 5.00 am.

Officially, the bandh was supposed to begin at 9 am and end at 3 pm.

The ECR came out with details of a large number of trains halted at different places under its five divisions–Danapur, Mughalsarai, Dhanbad, Samastipur and Sonepur, during the bandh.

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