PUCL Bulletin, September 2001

PUCL report
Police firing at Kurhani


The PUCL, Muzaffarpur unit constituted a committee to enquire police firing at Kurhani on the day of Panchayat Election, i.e., 11th April 2001. The committee consisted of Dr. Vikas Narayan Upadhyaya. Shri Saheed Kamal, Shri Vishwa Bandhu, and Prof. Uday Shanker. The committee was authorised to include more members according to need. Shri Prem Kumar Shrivastava was included in the team and Shri Arvind Kumar 'Varun' also accompanied and the visit of the team to Kurhani.

The team visited Kurhani, the place of occurrence, on 22nd April 2001. The team met Shri Lakshman Bhagat, B.D.O., Kurhani, Shri Premshanker Singh, Officer Incharge, Kurhani P.S. and A.S.I. (Writer) of Kurhani P.S. The team also met Shri Pramod Kumar Verma, candidate for Mukhiya, Shri Sheonandan Rai, Ex. M.L.A., Shri Lakshan Deo Singh an important social worker and Shri Sambhu Pd Thakur, who presented their views before the team. The team also visited place of occurrence, Samrat Hardware shop, Gudri and the local hospital. The team went through the records of the hospital. The members of team met Shri P. K. Bihari, S.D.O. (West) next day. They also had talk with Shri Amrendra Mishra, presiding officer of P.S. No. 269. The members tried twice to meet Shri Ravikant Mishra deputed as zonal Magistrate on that day, but he was not available.

After talking to the concerned parties, the common people and others the enquiry team reached at the following conclusions.

The root of this unfortunate incident was non-availability of ballot papers of Zila Parishad on six or seven polling stations owing to carelessness of the authorities. This led to restlessness and confusion among voters at polling station No. 268, 269 (situated in Madhya Vidyalaya, Bangra Banshipur). But the officials present there resumed peaceful polling by pacifying people and assurance to start voting for Zila Parishad as soon as the ballot papers were received. The officials succeeded in bringing order and voting continued peacefully. In the meantime at 12.30 p.m., one Gopi Rai candidate of Zila Parishad accompanied by seven or eight persons arrived on motorcycles. They seized the ballot papers, voter's list and ballot box; tore the ballot papers and other relevant papers into pieces and threw away the ballot boxes in the field. After doing all this, they walked away at case. This incident occurred as if in a moment.

The presiding officers along with static magistrate and armed police force did not act and remained stunned large number of voters were standing in queue on both the polling stations to cast their votes. Voters become furious as soon as the booth-looters left the place. The voters felt that all the officials deputed for polling were in collaboration with the booth-looters. People locked the officials in a room and said that they would be free only on arrival of the higher officials. This, however, was denied by villagers. But it is possible that there might have been some minor clashes during this process. A constable was injured. He was examined in a hospital and the doctor wrote 'ABRASION' in bus report. On hearing about the capturing of booths, Shri Pramod Kumar Varma a candidate for Mukhiya reached there around 2.30 pm. There was information about capturing of other polling booths. He was obviously agitated, as he was expecting majority vote on those polling booths. He sat there on a chair and waited for the arrival of the higher authorities. It may be mentioned here that Shri Pramod Kumar Varma is a former Mukhiya, quite popular person to come from a respected family in the locality. Shri Lakshman Bhagat, B.D.O. Kurhani (serving at the same place for the last five years) has been biased against Shri Varma. Shri Varma did not pay frequent visit to the B.D.O., as did other Mukhiyas.

This probably hurt the ego of Shri Bhagat, who felt that Shri Varma thought it to be below his dignity to meet the B.D.O. expressed his opinion in this regard before the members of the team. Therefore it may be understood that the BDO did not like that Shri Varma be re-collected. We were told that BDO persuaded a number of persons to contest Shri Varma and assured them of all help. Shri Sambhu Prasad Thakur was one such person. He said to us that he had been persuaded; but that he politely declined the offer. We were told that the BDO ultimately persuaded Shri Ram Chandra Bhagat, his caste man and distant relative of local legislature, Shri Basawan to contest the election. The BDO was quite active in course of election evening to ensure that Shri Pramod Kumar is defeated. He. (BDO) used to say that ultimately that candidate alone would be winner who would get the BDO's certificate. The people somehow believed in this, which led them to think it was owing to this that the polling officials including the patrolling magistrate had without offering any resistance allowed the polling booths to be looted.

The S.D.O. Muzaffarpur West, Deputy S.P. Muzaffarpur, and Shri Ravikant Tiwari, Zonal Magistrate with police force reached the spot at 3.30 pm. Shri Tiwari in his FIR has mentioned that the mob of about 250-300 people, equipped with weapons had surrounded the polling stations. According to our sources about 50 to 100 persons in angry mood were present on the booth; but that they were armed does not appear to be correct. The above-mentioned officials were very much angry to have known that the polling officials had been kept as captives. As they came, they broke loose on the persons present there probably with a view to teaching them a lesson. People were twice lathi charged. The locked door were opened and polling personnel were set free. They got into the jeep. After that, Shri Pramod Kumar Varma along with ten to fifteen persons were taken into custody, were beaten and man-handled while being hauled in the vehicle.

The news about arrest of and misbehavior with Shri Pramod Kumar Verma spread like wild fire in the area. As the vehicles of the officials reached the Police Station premises, a big crowd gathered in and around the Police Station. When Shri Subodh Kumar Verma, an advocate and the younger brother of Promad Kumar Verma went to meet the officials and to know about the developments, he too was beaten and hauled into the standing truck. The crowd became uncontrolled and furious. The S.D.O., Muzaffarpur West set free all the detained persons including Shri Pramod Kumar Verma. The S.D.O. asked Shri Pramod Kumar Verma to pacify the crowd. But, it was too late. It was crowd of thousand to twelve hundred people which began to throw stones. There is every possibility of anti-social elements mingling with the crowd. Crackers were thrown. The team did not find any trace of bomb splinters. Traces of stone throwing were found. The mirror hanging on the verandah of Police Station was found broken in pieces. A Motor-cycle standing in campus of the Police Station was found damaged. The glass panes of the standing vehicles in the Police Station compound were found damaged.

(Shri Premshanker Singh, officer Incharge, Kurhani P.S. denied the possibility of there being effective arms in the possession of the mob. He said that some of them might be having country made revolvers).

Mob was growing aggressive. Lathi Charge was of no use. Tear-gas was not available. It was necessary to control the mob. The officials ordered effective firing. No effort was made to disperse the mob by firing in the air. There were many on-lookers in the crowd. One of them Shri Amit Jha, a student of B.A.-I(Commerce) and getting training in a Computer Course, had come from Muzaffarpur on that day. He was going with his younger brother to gudri (local market) to buy fish. He was standing there out of curiosity. He was shot dead. His body fell on the right side of the road. According to F.I.R. lodged by Shri Tiwari, zonal Magistrate Shri Amit Jha was firing in front of police Station. A country made revolver was found lying by his side. The revolver was loaded. Four used cartridges (.315) were found on the road. It appears from F.I.R. that he was a dreaded Criminal. But, the police officials denied that he had any criminal antecedents. Another deceased person Shri Pramod Ram was father of four children. He was working in Brick Chimney. He is not having any criminal antecedents.

He was standing near Samrat Harwares on way to Gudri. According to records of the Hospital, he was brought to hospital in serious condition. He along with Anuplal Bhagat was referred to the Sadar Hospital, Muzaffarpur. He is recorded as found dead in the police record. The two buses, requisitioned for election were standing in the P.S. campus. But for them, many lives would have been lost in the police firing. More than a dozen persons were injured in firing. They got their treatment privately owing to fear of being implicated in false cases. The team went to the house of Shri Pramod Ram. Five to seven persons showed their bullet injuries. One of them has serious injury in the wrist -- a bullet passed through the wrist. They did not go to any registered doctor or hospital out of fear. There was reign of terror for a few days. The allegation about the damage caused to wireless room was false. The ASI (Munshi) told the team that seeing the aggressive mood of mob on instruction from officials present he had closed the door of wireless room inside. Messages were sent to headquarters and another concerned person by wireless. No one entered in that room. He was never beaten by the mob and he did not hear any sound of bomb or crackers.

We are constrained to mention with a sense of unhappiness that had the officials who had gone to rescue the polling parties of Booth No. 268 and 269 used tact and moderation instead of force, the tragedy could have been averted.


Conclusions:

  1. The root cause of the incident was that ballot papers of Zila Parishad member was not available on many booths, including 268-269

  2. Shri Lakshmanan Bhagat, B.D.O., Kurhani had all along been holding prejudiced views against Shri Pramod Kumar Varma former Mukhiya and candidate at the current election. The B.D.O. openly stated that he would not let Varma be elected.

  3. That eight to ten persons could loot the ballot papers etc and disrupt the polling at booth Nos. 268-269 in the presence of the magistrate and the armed force equipped with fire arms led the people assembled there to believe that the polling parties too were in collaboration with the B.D.O.

  4. When the S.D.O. Muzaffarpur (West), the Deputy S.P. and the B.D.O. along with armed forces reached the polling booths no. 268 and 269, they instead of tackling the situation with persuasion and tact, tried to resolve the matter through use of force. In course of this Shri Pramod Kumar Varma, the candidate for Mukhiya was humiliated and brought to the thana under arrest.

  5. When the Zeep reached the thana Sri Verma, humiliated and manhandled in the same manner, was made to alight from the jeep and pushed and hauled into the truck along with other arrested persons. His younger brother, Shri Suboth Kumar Verma, an advocate, who had come to the P.S. to make enquires about his brother was likewise man-handled and pushed into the truck. All this happened in the full view of the big assembly which was already excited. The people felt concerned for the safety Shri Verma and all this generated further anger and excitement.

  6. It was the result of all this that the crowd began palling brick-bats and stone-metals. There was however no evidence before the team to this effect that as stated in the F.I.R. Sri Pramod Kumar Verma, was exciting the members of the crowd to fire at the official party assembled at the Police Station. In any case, the situation became alarming and order were given for effective firing for controlling the situation. It is possible that had firing in the air been resorted to, the crowd could have receded and the regrettable deaths could have been avoided.


Recommendations:

  • The families of the deceased persons as also the injured persons be adequately compensated.

  • Guilty officials be punished.

Home | Index