Crime, a little politics turned a community against him


At the centre of the mob fury in Bihar's Aurahi-Hingana village, where two men had acid injected into their eyes on Sunday, were a local election, caste rivalry and a planned operation to teach one of the two a lesson. Investigations so far have left the police with no doubt that the attack was an "orchestrated group action" rather than something that happened in the heat of the moment.

Munna Thakur and his cousin Kanhaiya Thakur, members of the Nai community and both in their 30s, were overpowered by a mob that appears to have comprised over 100 villagers, not just the 30 against whom police have registered a case. They used a syringe to inject the acid, taken from the battery of a solar lamp. Kanhaiya has lost nearly all sight in both eyes, while Munna has been blinded in one eye and can barely see with the other.

The attack revived memories of 1980's "Operation Gangajal" in Bhagalpur, where 33 suspected criminals were blinded with acid injected into their eyes, allegedly by the police. Mobs have been very violent in recent years, this being the third time in three months that a mob has meted out justice in Araria alone, with one person beaten to death on each of the previous two occasions. In the last six years, Bihar has seen over three dozen cases of mob vengeance, including the 2007 lynching of 10 suspected thieves at Rajapakad in Vaishali.

Aurahi-Hingana, part of Araria district, is dominated by OBC Mandals while the Thakurs' Nai community, associated with the barber's trade, is counted among Mahadalits. Munna Thakur has a criminal record and is said to have used muscle power to intimidate other villagers, but what really triggered the attack was a panchayat byelection where he fielded his wife, who ended up dividing the Hindu votes against the eventual Muslim winner.

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