When criticized for the US setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, Donald Rumsfeld, the former Defense Secretary, once angrily burst out: “You go to war with the army you have -- not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
With the elections in Bihar over and a new legislature constituted, Bihar too should undertake its reconstruction on a war footing under an experienced veteran manipulator Chief Minister it has. Bihar must move on with its own army that consists of its leaders, bureaucrats and citizens.
Right after I expressed my optimism on this portal early this month, I received newspaper clippings from a Bihari notifying me of many instances of lawlessness in the state. I dismissed these reports because they came from a citizen who has taken up residency outside Bihar and established his medical practice there. The clippings were on doctors being threatened with kidnapping or local traders harassed by politically connected mafias. A 50-year old government high school principal was rescued from his abductors in the Kharagpur area of Munger district. I tended to not over-trust this disgruntled Bihari because he is also an avowed supporter of the BJP. Most of the clippings, moreover, were from the Hindi newspapers. I did not appreciate that most ground level sensational news are covered by the vernacular media.
However, the recent gunning down of two engineers engaged in road construction in my home district Darbhanga by criminals seeking extortion money has shattered me and I’m sure many like me. I don’t need clippings and the deliverer of information any more on all that is bad in Bihar. We have lived through this. They are upon us once again. Our heart bleeds with the picture of dripping of blood from the bodies of Brajesh Kumar Singh (45) and Mukesh Kumar (30). Their families will enter the New Year most certainly without the bread earner. Just imagine what Bihar would mean to them. Will they not like to go anywhere away from Bihar where they and their family members would feel more secured?
The Darbhanga superintendent of police is reported to have said that the criminals were identified and arrests would be made shortly. Such statements rub insult to the injury. It’s not a secret that the police know all the criminal gangs and mafia operating in a particular area, but they don’t confront them head on. The criminals either receive protection from powerful politicians or certain elements in the police are in league with the mafias.
The lawlessness in Bihar manifests in many forms. For example, in another incident reported on December 15, a truck driver ran over a posse of policemen on NH-2 in Rohtas district killing three including a senior police inspector. According to reports, the policemen were at the toll plaza collecting money illegally. This reminded me of a similar personal experience in the 90’s on Muzaffarpur-Patna road when our car was stopped by uniformed policemen at a makeshift bamboo gate. They let us go perhaps guessing we could be well connected. In the garb of policing, therefore, nefariously illegal acts were conducted where there was no fear of law above and no moral qualms. In contrast, sometimes, many police personnel had lost their lives trying to dismantle such illicit check posts erected by local goondas.
The absence of authority or law-enforcing agencies who could immediately swing into action in a local crisis often leads people (mostly mobs) to take up law into their own hands. Setting vehicles on fire, or clubbing someone to death without giving the accused an opportunity to defend himself or herself has become so frequent that we hardly pay attention to such news. During my visit to Darbhanga early this year, I was amazed to read reports that a mob would enter a police station and beat up the Station House Officer. At the same time, on the other hand, the police would admit false complaints from parties and then extort money from the accused. The laws against abuse and harassment of the dalits have become very handy for the police personnel trying to extract money from the people who had money.
All these scary reports and depressing trends notwithstanding, we have to stay positive and optimistic at the advent of a new year (2016). Bihar has no choice but to turn to its own army for surging ahead. If the political leadership fails us, there are still committed, fair, hardworking and honest platoons of officers in the bureaucracy who can be the deliverers. Officers like Pramod Thakur, Anjani Singh, Rameshwar Singh (all from JNU) and a host of bright officers manning the key positions of the Bihar administration will have to be relied upon to prevent the inept politicians from abusing their positions of power. The young officers will have to assist the civil societies and the people in holding the elected representatives accountable to the rule of law and the constitution. History will record their service and sacrifice to the state of Bihar.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.