What has changed in Bihar? the number of communal incidents

Lately, communal violence has been a trend in India. But Bihar was among the north Indian states with the lowest number of violence. But this has been changing since 2017, over the last three years.

As per the data collected through the responses of union ministers Kiren Rijiju and Hansraj Ahir in Lok Sabha in 2016 and 2018 respectively, shows that Bihar has very few communal violence incidents in the period between 2012 and 2017, whereas Rajasthan has one of the least fatalities among Hindu heartland states.

In this time period, among the North Indian states, Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of cases at 1010, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 441 cases, Rajasthan 380, West Bengal 180, and Jharkhand 85. Bihar reported 366 such incidents. The fatality in such cases during this time was the highest in UP at 237, Madhya Pradesh had 53, Bihar 42, Rajasthan 32, and Jharkhand 12.

Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, MP, and Rajasthan are the main regions where ‘cow-related’ crimes are mostly concentrated, as per a study. Out of 63 incidents, the majority of cow-related crimes were also recorded in northern states according to a study done by India Spend.

The highest number of such crimes was in Uttar Pradesh at 10, Haryana had 9, Gujarat and Karnataka 6 each, and Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Rajasthan had 4 each. Jharkhand reported 3 incidents. Bihar reported one incident in Saharsa while neighbouring Bengal too reported one incident.

Amidst all this, it becomes important to think that from being a state with the least number of such incidents, Bihar saw a sudden surge in communal violence in 2017. The same year, when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar broke alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress to forge an alliance with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), 270 such cases were reported.  Cases of communal violence were reported from Bhagalpur, Araria, Munger, Aurangabad, Samastipur, Sheikhpura, Nawada, and Nalanda.

Some of the analysts have to say that the main reason behind the uprise in the number of such cases of communal violence was the polarization that started in 2013. “Muzaffarpur-Vaishali in north Bihar has historically largely been free from communal violence,” says Mohammad Sajjad, who teaches modern history at Aligarh Muslim University. “Small incidents started in 2013, and in 2018 there were many riots in Bihar. There were riots in Muzaffarpur in 2015, and then again in 2018.” The communal violence continued in 2018, affecting districts like Gaya, Arrah, Champaran, Muzaffarpur, and Vaishali around Ram Navami festivities.

Sajjad further added that “The Nitish Kumar government was successful in stopping some communal incidents from converting into riots. However, he failed in many areas”.

If observed closely, the data on the communal violence over the past decade shows that the state fared well in terms of overall numbers. It has witnessed an exponential surge.

“There were many incidents of communal tension that were not allowed to degenerate into violence. Yet, 2018 was a year when large-scale arson, loot, and violence took place across Bihar,” Sajjad says.

A report by the India Express showed that 226 cases of communal violence were reported from January 2010 to June 2013. From June 2013 to July 2015, the cases mounted three times taking the count to 667. In 2018, in just three months, 64 such cases were witnessed in the state: 21 cases in January, 13 in February, and 30 in March, across 9 districts including Bhagalpur, Siwan, Munger, and Nalanda.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made a statement recently that the number of cases related to communal violence reduced in the year 2019, as compared to 2018. “If we look at the crime figures for January-May this year (2019) and compare these with the corresponding period in 2018, we find riots have gone down by 32 percent,” the CM had said in the state assembly. ​

Polls are scheduled later this month, and it is only in the best interest of the voters that these issues are talked about and the essence of informed voting remains in India.

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Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan is a student at the Centre for Chinese and South-east Asian Studies, JNU, New Delhi. He also works with Hasratein- a Delhi based queer collective. The current area of his academic interest lies in the study of the Chinese language and society.