Manoj Manzil, the CPI-ML legislator from Agiaon constituency in Bihar’s Bhojpur district, on August 2 filed a court case under sections of SC/ST (Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes) Act against Ara Sadar Circle Officer, Praveen Pandey for allegedly using casteist slur against him.
The incident took place on July 6 when Mr. Manzil along with others was protesting to get compensation for the family of a person who had died in a road accident.
‘Had to Bring the Officer in My Own Vehicle to Perform the Post-Mortem’
Earlier on June 18, 28-year-old Ranjan Yadav, who used to work at a departmental store for a daily earning of Rs. 100 passed away in a road accident.
Post the accident, from 9 pm Mr. Yadav’s dead body was left uncared for at the Sadar hospital. At around 11 pm when Mr. Manzil was informed about the issue, he reached the hospital only to find that the officer responsible for assisting the post-mortem proceedings was not present.
‘I had to go to the Town police station and bring the officer back to the hospital in my own vehicle,’ Mr. Manzil told Gauri Lankesh News. The difficulties did not end there. Furthermore, Mr. Manzil had to arrange for inquest paper from another police station nearby and it was only when people angered by the delay in the procedure gathered outside the hospital that the postmortem was performed at 1 am.
Mr. Yadav is survived by his partner Ms. Pooja Devi and their children.
Compensation Money and the Subsequent Protest
After struggling to get the compensation money for over a month, Ms. Devi approached Mr. Manzil for assistance.
On July 3 when Mr. Manzil and his team tried to contact the Circle Officer, Praveen Pandey in Ara, their phone calls were deliberately diverted to the staff, following which the legislator went ahead to see the CO in person at the Nevada police station where the officer assured that compensation would be provided.
On the decided day, July 6, Mr. Manzil accompanied Ms.Devi but the officer had left the premises of the Circle Office before their scheduled meeting time. They both waited for more than 6 hours in the officer’s chamber but the officer did not come back.
After 5 in the evening, Mr. Manzil along with around 50 other people including the family of the deceased and activists of AISA and RYA started a protest in front of the Circle office. It was only after 6:30 that the CO along with the BDO reached the protest site where the former shouted at the protestors for ‘politicising’ the issue and went on to heckle them.
The Circle officer, Praveen Pandey also misbehaved and hurled casteist abuses at Mr. Manzil who has led several other movements for rightful compensation to the families of working-class people who lost their lives to natural disasters and public road accidents.
‘He has become an MLA for the first time but he acts as if he runs the government,’ the CO said implying the legislator’s caste location, Mr. Manzil who comes from a Dalit community told Gauri Lankesh News.
‘It is apparent that the officer has been unable to move beyond the feudal understanding based on caste supremacy,’ Mr. Manzil further added.
Even after the use of force when Mr. Manzil and other protesting people refused to leave, at around 7 pm the CO finally handed over a cheque of Rs. 4 lakh to Ms. Devi.
Following the incident, Mr. Manzil has registered a case against the CO Praveen Pandey under the sections of SC/ST (Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes) Act and Indian Penal Code in Ara Court.
Surprisingly, an FIR has also been registered by the CO against Mr Manzil and three other people namely, Mr Qayamuddin Ansari, Advocate Amit Kumar Bunty, and Mr. Mukul Yadav, a Ward Council representative for creating mayhem.
Later on, after being question by the media, CO Praveen Pandey said that the FIR against the MLA and other three people were registered after orders from the Sub-Divisional Officer (Sadar), ABP News reported.
‘The administration of Ara block in Bihar is infamous for severely delaying the payment of compensation to the families of victims. Since November CPIML has been able to organise the locals around the issue and pressurise the administration into releasing around Rs. 70 lakh of compensation but still around Rs. 1.25 Crore remains to be paid.’ Mr. Manzil said and explained that ‘the administration here is used to slipping the compensatory money into their own pockets.’
Furthermore, Mr. Manzil said that the diversion of the compensation money away from the victims does not happen in isolation at a local level rather the entire state government works in coordination for it.