Bihar’s greatest human chain was more of a ‘children chain’

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A total of 163 students of Purvi primary-middle school under Dinara block in Rohtas district took part in the ‘Humna Chain’. They reached on the marked spot at 10 am on January 21 in three tractors and remained standing there till 1.05 pm. Two girls of standard 4 among them fainted due to hunger. They had not been served food since morning, though the headmasters across the state were in writing directed by their official masters to prepare mid-day meal and feed the students before they participate in the mega event organized on the order of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in support of ban on liquor sale in the state since April 1, 2016. The headmaster of Purvi School, Brajesh Singh, however, said, “Khichadi and Chokha had been cooked and served to the students before they left. The two fainted girls might have not eaten the meal”.

At least two children died and more than 80 young students became unconscious across the state during the ‘Human Chain’, which was purely a government-sponsored programme. It may have offered some political advantage to the executive head of the state. But in no way it gave any lesson to the people at the villages to promote liquor prohibition. A handful of workers of the political parties registered their presence by standing in the line. It was all along the children who made the show a grand success. The common people had nothing to do with it. On the ground, a parallel system of booze selling could be seen in the country sides as well as in the towns under the clandestine shelter of the police officers.

At Dhangai village near Bikramganj town, about 500 women and men from Dalit section while standing in human chain demonstrated empty pouches of the desi liquors to the officers. The angry villagers were shouting slogans against the police officers, who according to them had hand-in-gloves with the booze mafias in the locality. They chased away the daroga of Bikramganj police station when he tried to reach them to sort out their complaints. One of the villagers said, “Daaru is sold at each and every corner of our village. We are fed up with the nuisance created by the drunkards.”

When the government imposed ban on the sale of liquor in April last year, it was a complete success. The liquor buyers and sellers started behaving at that time but gradually the business resumed in full swing. A constable in Natwar police station told Tehelka, “For in-charge of my thana, protect booze sellers and take fat maal in return from them is a lucrative business.” At the telephonic instruction of the constable, a daaru seller arranged a bottle of Royal Stag as evidence. The seller candidly informed, “We have been instructed by the saheb in the police station to make delivery to the needy persons at their doors to avoid hulla-gulla”. He revealed almost all the old liquor sellers are back and actively conducting their businesses.

An officer-in-charge of the Bikramganj police circle said, “I have been asking the drinkers to have it silently and go to sleep. I arrest only the nuisance creators. Once I arrested two persons and heavy liquor from their possession. The superior officer put me in a tight spot by saying ‘you have seized it because it is easily available in your juridiction.’ From that very day, I stopped arresting the liquor sellers and drinkers.”

The programme may have offered some political advantage to the executive head of the state, but it hasn’t done much to curb liquor sale

A police inspector at Sasaram said, “When the chief minister was at the district headquarters during his Nischaya Yatra recently, it was me who arranged bottles for the officers who had come from Patna and were moving around in his carcade.” Tehelka watched the show for two hours and covered 10km on foot from Dinara block headquarters to Natwar Bazaar. It was more a children chain rather than human chain. Children from different primary, middle and high schools in uniform had been standing in queue holding hands of one another, as directed by their teachers.

Some of them intermittently shouted slogans such as jo piyega daaru, use bachche marenge jhaaru (Those who will have liquor, they will be beaten up with brooms by children). Significantly, not a single participating student was in the know about the goal behind their presence in the queue. Said Anita Kumari, a girl of class 5 at Dahigna Primary Middle School, “The teacher told us to go to Dinara to attend a beautiful fair and so we all came in pleasant mood. We assembled at the school premises in the morning, were dumped in the tractors and brought here”.

Kamal Chand Prasad, a teacher at Saisar High School, said, “It was not possible for us to cook meal and brought the children to the spot on right time”.It has officially been proved that children across the state were forced to participate in the human chain, though the state government had while responding to a hearing in the Patna High Court assured, “The children up to class 5 have been exepmted from the participation whereas other students may take part on their own wishes, they would not be forced by the state government.” But the reality on the ground was completely opposite. The district education officer of Rohtas had sent an official letter to all headmasters threatening them to ensure presence of the students in the human chain or else face dire consequences. The letter, which is in possession of Tehelka, also has warned the students of delisting their names from the schools if they fail to come.

Nitish Kumar claimed that not less than 3 crores people from across the state participated in the human chain, which covered 11,292km, making it a world record. The state government has plans to send the images of the human chain taken from 5 satelites, 38 drones and 6 helicopters to the Guinness Book of World Records. Spread over north to south and east to west, the human chain continued for 45 minutes. An ISRO team was also present in Patna to document the historic event.

Elated CM said, “The event has sent a positive message across the world in support of the liquor prohibition. The people have shown that a strong foundation for the social change has been laid down in the state and I hope this unity will continue for other social causes”. The BJP also took part in the event. Nityanand Rai, BJP state president said, “Our party has been supporting liquor ban since beginning.” Former deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader, Sushil Modi, however, alleged that the schoolchildren and their parents were forced to participate in the human chain that took place at the behest of the chief minister for solely political mileage.

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