Soroor Ahmed in Patna
Eleven persons, including a sub-inspector, were killed in a gun-battle between police and supporters of Rashtriya Janata Dal Member of Parliament Mohammad Shahabuddin in his native village in Siwan district on Thursday.
A news agency report, however, said that a policeman and 12 ruling RJD supporters lost their lives in the clash, which began on Thursday afternoon, and continued into the night.
RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, who was to leave for Delhi to hold talks on the formation of the People's Front, cancelled his trip.
As tensions ran high in Siwan, the Bihar Mounted Police, three columns of the Central Reserve Police Force and one column of the army moved in from Ranchi in neighbouring Jharkhand and other places to assist the police to maintain peace and step up their offensive to arrest Shahabuddin. The MP is reported to have already left the district.
Prohibitory orders were also clamped in the district.
According to sources, policemen rose in revolt against the alleged high-handedness of the MP. On Thursday, Shahabuddin allegedly roughed up a deputy superintendent of police outside an examination hall in Siwan town.
The MP, who is a law unto himself, under the banner of the Kadachar Nivaran Udan Dasta (Flying Squad for the Removal of Unfair Means in exams) made a surprise visit to a college when matriculation examinations were in progress.
The police officers at the venue objected to his presence, leading to the clash between the MP and the DSP.
But another report said the policemen tried to arrest one of Shahabuddin's accomplices wanted in a kidnapping case, following which Shahabuddin slapped the DSP on duty at the venue.
This enraged the policemen who the following day ransacked the cars of the district magistrate and the superintendent of police and detained DIG C R Kaswan in the local circuit house demanding action against the MP.
They later forced District Magistrate Rasheed Ahmed Khan and Superintendent of Police B S Meena to raid Shahabuddin's ancestral village Pratappur, which is 17 km from Siwan.
Reaching the spot, the enraged policemen opened indiscriminate firing. Shahabuddin's supporters returned the fire.
In all 1,000 rounds were reportedly fired. Four of the MP's supporters and a policeman were killed in the ensuing clash.
Another policeman, Sub-Inspector Ramsagar Singh, was killed when an agitated mob clashed with the police in neighbouring Khalilpura village. In Siwan town, another restive mob threw petrol bombs on the town police station and set ablaze an official jeep.
Though the MP was in his house, he managed to escape before the police closed in on him.
Later, he told Star News that his men fired in self-defence and that he was not going to surrender.
Police claimed to have recovered an AK-47 rifle, a 9mm pistol and some hand-grenades from the MP's house.
Director General of Police R R Prasad and other top police and administrative officials are camping in the village.
Chief Secretary Mukund Prasad said two columns of the army from Ranchi and one column from Danapur (Patna) have been deployed in Siwan. Besides, three companies of central paramilitary forces have also been rushed there.
According to official sources, the state government has also deputed four additional district magistrates and four executive magistrates to Siwan.
This is not the first instance of Shahabuddin's supporters clashing with the police.
On polling day, in the 1996 parliamentary elections, he and his supporters opened fire on then superintendent of police S K Singhal.
However, the policemen were in a belligerent mood this time and in no mood to listen to their superiors.
Notably, unlike in the past, this is the first time Shahabuddin is fighting with his back to wall as he has strained his relationship with RJD supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav and is hobnobbing with rebel leader Dr Ranjan Yadav.
The mutual distrust between the two started last year following a series of violent and fatal clashes involving Shahabuddin's supporters and rival gangs.
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