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13 September 2011

BIHAR UPDATE: Students demand justice for Forbesganj killings

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By Manzar Imam

New Delhi: The incidents of police killing will continue to happen till there are no fundamental changes made to the social and political structure of India. The Forbesganj killing is the repetition of an old pattern of similar events which have been taking place in Nandigram, Singur and other parts of the country. These views were expressed by speakers at the Mandavi Hostel of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in a public debate “Forbesganj Killing: Communal-Casteist State”.

The programme was organized by Students for Resistance (SFR) on 10 September 2011. It was attended by students from Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University, Indira Gandhi National Open University besides JNU.

A 28-minute documentary was played at the beginning which captured media reports and video-recordings of the gruesome killing of 4 people including a pregnant woman and a child on 3 June 2011 in Bhajanpur village of Forbesganj Block in Araria district of Bihar. The hideous police brutality did not get the kind of media coverage which even small events in cities usually get.

The incident calls for a CBI inquiry but the state government issued only a judicial probe which is just an eyewash. No justice has been done, no compensation paid so far except for Rs 3 lakh to the family of the deceased child, Naushad.

Speaking on this occasion, Prof. Kumar Sanjay Singh of Delhi University traced the origin of caste politics in India. In order to understand the nature of riots and communalism one needs to go deep to the root causes and underlying factors for such incidents - hence the need to understand the relation of caste and communalism. He took a dig at the politics of vote in India and said that although India had achieved freedom things had not changed. What people are demanding in Forbesganj is an outlet to what connects them to their source of livelihood. Prof. Singh cited economic reasons for communalism in India.

Mahtab Alam, a rights activist, who visited the Bhajanpur village of Forbesganj where the incident had happened, described in detail what led to the killing of innocent people. He said it was a planned programme by the owners of Auro Sundram, who wanted to occupy the land which belonged to the villagers. The guilty are still roaming free while cases have been registered against 4000 villagers.

Alam also mentioned the role of Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA), a Bihar government body which works under the chairmanship of the Principal Secretary, Department of Industries, Government of Bihar and allots land to set up industrial units. Mritunjay of SFR said that the Forbesganj killing belied the system which guarantees justice, equality and right to live. The police are serving the corporate interests, he said.

Media’s role was also brought to the front. According to Dilip Mandal of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, media turned a blind eye to the Forbesganj killing. He said that as against 5 crore annual expenditure on media by the erstwhile government, Nitish Kumar spent 34 crore rupees on media in the last year of his first term. He also said that in one year Nitish Kumar spent 10 core 12 lakh on one newspaper alone. This is the reason why no media in Bihar dare speak against the regime, observed Mr Mandal. Khalid Anis Ansari, a research scholar with the University for Humanistics, Utrecht, Netherlands held the system responsible for such events.

Columnist Abid Anwar criticized the role of Urdu media for their under-reporting of Forbesganj killing. The state’s Urdu media that claims to be the sole voice and champion of Muslim causes, remained largely silent over the issue, he said. When asked, Anwar said that the blockade of road against which the villagers were protesting is the only way to go to the market, mosque, Idgah, Karbala and hospital.

While the role of popular media was criticized, the role of some Muslim-run alternate media like the TwoCirlces.net and IndianMuslimObserver.com was hailed for highlighting the issue. Madhuresh Kumar of the National Convention of Jan Sansad also spoke on this occasion.

SFR also released its fact-finding report. The 28-page report titled “Ek hi Raasta” begins with a poem by progressive writer Kaifi Azmi. SFR members Kusum and Chinmai from JNU, Poonam from Jamia Millia Islamia, Archana from IGNOU and many others were present in the meeting.

[Manzar Imam is Special Correspondent of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be reached at manzarimam@rediffmail.com]

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