Hundreds of people gathered for an ‘Aman March’ (Peace March) in Bihar Sharid, Nalanda, Bihar against mob lynchings on 17 July 2017. But the local administration and police unleashed a crackdown on a peaceful demonstration.
The demonstration had been called by the Insaf Manch (an organization known for its successful activism and advocacy for Muslim youth falsely framed in terror cases). It was a bannerless and silent demonstration, following the lead of the Not In My Name protests that are taking place all over India.
The police arrested 27 teenagers who were on the way to join the protest. On hearing this news protesters demanded the release of all arrested children, they also offered to court arrest themselves in exchange of release of arrested children. But the officials deliberately did not listen to their demands, instead all people were stopped from taking out the protest. Hundreds of people decided to sit peacefully on the road where they were stopped by the police. They kept sitting peacefully for hours but administration did not relent. After a long wait they offered to be arrested and tried to sit in a bus brought to the spot by the administration. But the police officers did not allow them to sit in the bus, instead ordered them to remain unmoved on spot. All people obeyed this too and remained standing on the road. Senior officials slowly disappeared from the protest site and in a short while the police started lathicharging the silent protesters. (The details have been reported in the Hindustan dated 18 July 2017).
Many CPI(ML) activists along with dozens of others are seriously injured and 53 people have been arrested. Local CPI(ML) activists Maksudan Sharma, Ramdas Akela, and Manmohan were also injured and arrested, as well as Rina Devi, Pal Bihari Lal, Kishori Sav and Sarfaraz Khan who had also helped organize the Peace March.
The next day, there was a concerted campaign of vilification of the peaceful protest in the local media also. In these, the protesters as well as Insaf Manch organisers who had informed the police of the planned demonstration, were demonized as breakers of the peace and inciters of communal disturbance.
One deliberate false media report in the Rashtriya Sahara claimed that the Aman March procession was being held in ‘reply’ to a Bajrang Dal programme of ‘Langot Arpan’ which was held in town on 15 July. This newspaper described the participants of the Peace Procession as ‘upadravi’ (miscreants). Another paper Prabhat Khabar claimed – in what is entirely a fake news – that the protesters indulged in two rounds of firing, even as the same paper in the same paragraph has reported the statement of the Superintendent of police that no firing took place. The Prabhat Khabar termed the Insaf Manch organisers as ‘ringmasters’ of the incident! Another newspaper ‘Aaj’ commended the district administration for adopting a ‘zero tolerance’ approach and denying permission for the Peace March, which would have engulfed the whole town in flames if allowed! Only the Hindustan daily reported accurately that the administration was entirely responsible for the incident, since it needlessly arrested 25 teenagers and refused to concede the demonstrators’ peaceful demand that they be released, and that senior officials instead simply left the place.