The Birla owned Motihari Sugar Mill had closed down in 2005 but till today 100 workers and 200 sugar cane farmers have not received the payment due to them. When appealed to by the workers and farmers, the Supreme Court had directed the mill owners to make the payments without delay. The workers and farmers had been holding a dharna since 7 April at the mill gate demanding compliance with the SC order. When the Bihar government and administration still paid no heed, two protesters Naresh Shrivastava and Suraj Baitha immolated themselves, resulting in the death of the former. The insensitive administration, instead of heeding the dharna demands, cracked down on the protesters with brutal repression. The DM, SP and SDO reached the venue and the protesters were surrounded and subjected to lathi-charge, tear gas and firing, resulting in many being injured.
On 11 April a CPI (ML) team visited the Sadar Hospital, the sugar mill, and the workers’ quarters to enquire into the incident. They found that the dharna-holders had informed 17 authorities (including the PM, CM, Agriculture Minister, and DM) by registered post of the proposed self-immolation programme and had also put up 10,000 posters in different parts of the city, which the administration is now getting removed. Nobody from the police or the DM office went to the spot before the self-immolation neither took any action prior to the incident. The district administration is squarely responsible for the self-immolation and for firing on protesters.
On 12 April CPI(ML) called for a Motihari bandh in which hundreds of people took to the streets, starting from the railway station, proceeding through the main road and blockading the State Highway at Chhatauni Chowk. Addressing the meeting CPI(ML) District Secretary Prabhudev Yadav and other leaders said that the Modi and Nitish governments have been grossly unjust towards the legitimate demands of the workers and farmers; the brutal firing and lathi charge on them is an insult to Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha whose centenary, ironically, the government is observing with great pomp and show and hypocrisy. The following demands were made through the Motihari bandh:
1. Rs 20 lakhs compensation to victim Naresh Shrivastava’s family and government employment for family members; Naresh Shrivastava’s statue to be put up on the sugar mill gates.
2. Immediate payment of due amounts to workers and farmers.
3. Cases should be registered against DM, SP, and all others responsible for the self-immolation and firing incidents.
4. The government should take over the sugar mill and re-start it.
5. All false cases against innocent persons should be withdrawn and protesters who are in jail should be released unconditionally.