Patna, Aug 9: Bihar Education Minister Ashok Choudhary shocked a delegation of a citizen forum for communal harmony and peace on Tuesday by saying he was not aware of communal tension in the state's Saran district.
After four days of violence and tension, the situation in Saran appeared to be quieter and returning to normalcy on Tuesday with any gathering of five or more persons banned under Section 144 of the CrPC and internet services suspended in the district.
Choudhary, who is also the president of Bihar Congress unit, was interacting with the delegation at Sadaqat Ashram, the state Congress headquarters, here.
The news of communal tension in Bihar's Saran district has hit the headlines since last week.
"It was unbelievable for us when Choudhary asked us exactly what happened there and when. His expression was such that he was not aware of the communal tension in Saran," Parveen Madhup, a member of the delegation, said.
Madhup said instead of providing us more information, Choudhary behaved as if he was ignorant about the communal tension in the district. "It has exposed how serious he is about communal harmony," Madhup added.
Sarfaraz Ahmad, another delegation member, said: "Being state Congress president and a minister, Choudhary should have given us details of the communal tension in Saran."
"We never expected this. His ignorance of the entire issue disappointed us," Sarfaraz said.
Last year, the Congress joined hands with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United and Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal to defeat the BJP-led NDA in the Bihar assembly polls.
The grand alliance of the JD-U, RJD and the Congress successfully fought and won polls to defeat communal forces in Bihar.
Communal tension in Saran started last Friday (August 5) after some young men of a village blocked roads to protest police failure to take action against the man who was alleged to have posted objectionable video clip on social networking sites Facebook and WhatsApp, despite complaints lodged by them.
Trouble slowly spread from road blockades to angry mob attacks on houses and shops of the Muslim community on Friday.
"Some youths attacked the house of a prime accused to express their anger against police failure to arrest him for circulating an objectionable video clip on social media. It added fuel to the fire to spread communal tension," an official said.
Later on Friday, violent clashes took places between the two communities and more shops and houses were targeted at several places. Sensing more trouble, the district administration issued orders under Section 144 of the CrPC banning any public gathering.
On Saturday, violent clashes were reported and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal called a day-long shut-down that forced all shops, schools, colleges to remain closed. Over a dozen persons, including policemen, were injured in the clashes.
"Vehicles were attacked and damaged, the mob attacked police teams, torched shops and tried to set ablaze houses on Saturday," the official said.
A police officer said that some local leaders of the VHP and Bajrang Dal played important role in spreading rumours, that he said were baseless, to target the other community.
"Rumours spread by them also created fear and hatred that triggered communal tension."
District officials said on Tuesday that situation in Saran is under control but tension is still there.
"Schools and colleges opened on Tuesday, markets were also reopened," an official said.
However, the administration has said that internet services will remain suspended till next order.
So far, 34 people have been arrested and police filed nearly two dozen FIRs.