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Banka police started claiming the first district in Bihar to manage court to punish drinkers in dry Bihar in special liquor prohibition act in the state. But human right activists termed the enter incident as violation of fundamental rights despite the fact that special liquor prohibition act was made after with completing all the formalities.
It claimed that for the first time history in dry Bihar 8 drinkers were awarded 5 years rigorous imprisonment besides penalty of Rs 1 Lakh each for consuming liquor and created nuisance in public place under the new act, Bihar liquor prohibition and excise act. After completing 8 days hearing in the court the conviction was done within 21 days of arresting of the accused persons by speedy trail.
According to superintendent of police, Banka Chandan Kushwaha, on November 30 the court of 2 nd additional district and session judge-cum-special court, liquor prohibition, Alok Kumar Sinha in a seedy trail, awarded 8 persons 5 years rigorous imprisonment along with fine of Rs 1 Lakh each. Trials were done only in 8 days and the conviction was done under section 37 (C) Bihar liquor prohibition and excise act of 2016.
Earlier a case ( case No : 252/17) was constituted with Belhar (Khesar) PS on November 9, 2017 against Dhananjay Manjhi, Pacho Manjhi, Subash Manjhi, Pappu Manjhi, Sitaram Manjhi, Manav Manjhi, Sudin Manjhi ( all from Belhar PS areas) and Julmi Manjhi from Sangrampur PS in neighboring Munger district following after their arresting. They were arrested in drunken state and were creating niceness in public place at Hariyasi More Nahar. The medial conducted by the police also confirmed the heavy consuming of liquor from neighbouring Jharkhand areas.
The SP who had supervised the case himself,directed the IO of the case, a SI rank officer, Srikant Chouhan to file charge sheet against the accused within 24 hours. After filling the charge sheet, Kushwaha personally approached the district and session judge, Banka for speedy trail in the case. The court started speedy trail and another SI rank police officer, Suvo Kant Choudhary was assigned for coordinating police and court. With timely producing all the witnesses in the case, the court managed to deliver judgement with 21 days in 8 court dates.
Family members of the accused persons heavily lambasted police for unnecessary harassing poor tribals. They said all the accused persons are poor tribals who enjoyed liquor at neghbouring Jharkhand when they went there to attain a ritual. “You know in tribal society liquor is as much as important as Ganga Jal and without it no ritual could be performed. So when the people after participating one such tribal ritual, were returning to their village they were arrested by police. The allegation level against them for creating nuisance was imparted by police which was totally baseless and concocted,” the family members alleged.
Defense lawyers like Ram Kishore Yadav, however said that the case directly violated the fundamental rights of the tribals. Nakul Manjhi, a youth and relative of one of the accused specified it : “ We are followers of Sarna (a sect) and liquor holds a very important part in our lives and religion. In eastern Bihar districts, Christen Santhal having a good population are also found but in their society liquor does not has any religious significance.
“It’s our age old tradition to offer liquor to our deities. As Ganga Jal is essential for you to conduct any puja or any ritual, it’s liquor which plays important role not only in puja and rituals but also social customs like after the birth of a child, marriage, during deaths and many more items,” he explained.
“We are not going to sell the liquor in market but nobody could prevent us for brewing Mahua, its our fundamental right,” he cried out. Villagers including women at Goha Pokhar, the native place of seven accused persons at Belhar, echoed him and lambasted the government. “Now the practice for implement us in false cases has been started and it gives the opportunity to local police and others to exert money from us,” said Sandha Murmu (16), a class 8 dropout girl in the village. However, most of tribal youngsters in the region however admitted that liquor is highly responsible for the pitiable conditions of the rural tribals but they also expressed sharp reaction for curbing their fundamental rights while implicating tribals in liquor related cases.
Villages over villages falling in different Panchyats in eastern Bihar districts like Jamui, Lakhisarai, Munger, Banka, Seikhpura and even in Bhagalpur having sizable tribal population echoed the same : “ It’s a black law just to curb our fundamental rights,”. Many tribal villagers in this region said the states like Jharkhand etc where Panchayats extension to scheduled areas act, 1996 (PESA) is implicated, a tribal could store upto 5 liters of alcohol. However, they are not allowed to sell it as that is an offence under the central excise act, 1944. “Since any Panchyat here is not even has the status of schedule area, excise act, Bihar & Orisa, 2006 (amended) is not implacable which would compounded the tribals’ problems in the liquor ban issue,” they pointed out.
Naresh Hembraom, a youth from Mothawari Panchyat under Kotoria block in Banka, said despite the fact that the government started implementing the liquor ban strictly, it is the direct violation of ST/SC prevention of atrocities amendment act 2015 (PoA). Referring to excise act, Bihar & Orisa, 2006 (amended), he pointed out the law has empowered Gram Panchyats in schedule areas to produce and sale of intoxicating items like liquor but since not a single Gram Panchyat has the schedule areas’ status, 100 percent ban of liquor would automatically implicated here resulting curbing of the age-old tradition of the tribals.
Village at Goha Pokhar along with several other villages in Jamui along with some Panchyats in Banka, Lakhisarai and Munger districts are ready to face the sequences of ban of liquor aftermath. “We have started mobalizing our community members and in some places the party men (read Maoists) have assured to support us in this episode,” a tribal youth at Belhar block in Banka disclosed.
Senior officials both of police and civil preferred to be tight lipped. But some of them said that though police has been assigned for enforcing the liquor ban with other department concerned, but the question of exemption of it for the religious practices of tribals is related to the policy making of the government and why it was ignored, we don’t know, they pointed out. “The ball was at the court of the government and it had to consider the sequences of the episode but since the matter didn’t focused properly, we could only expect some intervention in it,” they pointed out.