Bihar politics is in a turmoil over the newly enacted Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021, which was passed in the State Assembly amidst unprecedented noisy scenes on March 23.
Opposition parties in Bihar, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), have described the Bill as a “black legislation”. The Bill seeks to give a new identity to the Bihar Military Police, renaming it Bihar Special Armed Police and giving it the mandate of maintaining public order, combating extremism, ensuring better protection and security of specific establishments, including airports, industrial establishments, metro rail and institutions of cultural significance.
The point of contention is the unbridled powers the Bill seeks to give the police. The Bill gives the police the power to arrest anyone who is deemed to be dangerous to public order, or deemed to be preventing the force from ensuring the security of an establishment without a warrant. This particular clause, say the opposition parties, will empower the police to break any democratic protest. The Bill also gives police the power to conduct raids and search premises without a warrant. More importantly, the Bill gives immunity to notified rank officials from judicial scrutiny. No courts can take cognisance of complaints against officials of notified ranks.
The Bihar government has justified the Bill saying the Bihar Military Police, which has been a supporting force to the general police so far, needed an independent identity in order to meet the challenges posed by the changed sociopolitical developments. It says a special force with multi-domain expertise is the need of the hour. The opposition parties, however, say the “dark legislation” is anti-democratic and is aimed at crushing the government’s political opponents.
MLAs belonging to opposition parties tried to physically prevent the Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha from conducting the House proceedings while he was trying to get the Bill passed. Some RJD MLAs climbed onto the podium to prevent the Speaker from taking his chair while others created a ruckus in the well of the House. Some of the protesting MLAs tried to snatch the papers from the House officials and were seen throwing their chairs around.
Amidst these unruly scenes, the Speaker adjourned the House. The protesting MLAs then held the Speaker hostage in his chamber. When these MLAs outnumbered the House marshals, the police had to be called in to control the situation. It was then that all mayhem broke loose. The police personnel beat up the MLAs, physically lifted them and dragged them out of the House, including women members. Disturbing videos of male police personnel beating women MLAs and pushing and shoving them have flooded social media.
Several protesting MLAs, including RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav, were taken into custody and then the government went on to pass the Bill.