By Dev Raj 

Several members of a 454-strong WhatsApp group that is allegedly operated by Bajrang Dal leaders helped incite and fan communal violence in Biharsharif town following the Ram Navami processions in end-March, police sources said.

This was done by circulating fake news, incendiary and abusive messages, and provocative photos and videos that spilled over to several other groups and social media platforms in the cyber frenzy that accompanied the violence, they added.

Altogether 16 people from the WhatsApp group have been named as accused in an FIR registered at the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) police station in Patna on Saturday.

Five of them — Manish Kumar, Tushar Kumar Tanti, Dharmendra Mehta, Bhupendra Singh Rana and Niranjan Pandey — have been arrested while two others have surrendered in court. A manhunt is on for the remaining nine suspects.

Asked for a response, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang’s parent organisaton, said the Bihar government headed by Nitish Kumar was implicating Bajrang members.

“We met the governor and submitted a memorandum to him that the state government was conducting a one-sided probe,” VHP national president R.N. Singh told this newspaper on Monday night.

“We have sought a high-level probe or a probe by the NIA (National Investigation Agency),” Singh added.

Singh said it was “possible that they (the Bajrang members) became excited after stones were thrown” at a procession. “If you throw stones, they are young blood and they will not take it as flowers. They will throw it back,” he added.

Kundan Kumar, the Bajrang Dal’s convener for Nalanda district where Biharsharif is located, was arrested on Saturday in connection with another FIR for alleged incitement and participation in the Biharsharif riots. He too was an active member of the WhatsApp group, and his name would be added to the EOU case, sources said.

A young man was shot dead in the Biharsharif rioting, and shops, houses and educational and religious establishments belonging to both communities were looted and vandalised.

Sources in the EOU, which also specialises in solving cyber crime, said investigations had established that the WhatsApp group was hyperactive during the March 30-31 violence in Biharsharif…

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