Patna: Bihar Police on Monday (September 12) arrested a man from Siwan district for making satirical comments about alcohol circulating freely in the state despite a ban on its sale. Ironically, police claimed he was arrested for promoting the sale and consumption of alcohol, charging him with an offense that could see him spend up to five years in prison.
At a religious event on Saturday September 10, the arrested youth, Abhishek Tiwari (18), was riding a motorbike modified to look like a boat. On one side of the motorcycle was painted, “Ballia at Darauli Liquor Supply Tok Evam Kudratha Vikreth. (Ballia in Darauli wholesale and retail liquor supply.)”
Locals say the youngster wanted to point out that alcohol is illegally reaching the Darauli of Bihar from Ballia in Uttar Pradesh by boat.
They say the motorbike doesn’t even belong to Tiwari and he was only riding it when it was captured on the video. After the video went viral, they alleged the police were “embarrassed and acted hastily”. Since the man is from a poor background, they pool money to fight the case.
The First Information Report (FIR) was recorded at the request of the Police Officer (SHO) of Ziradei Police Station, Rakesh Kumar. Tiwari was charged under Section 40 of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016 which deals with persons who print, publish, in any media including film and television, or from any social platform, directly or indirectly, anything that solicits the use of any alcohol or intoxicant. If found guilty, Tiwari is expected to face a jail term of between three and five years, and will also have to pay a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
After the FIR was filed on September 11, police raided Tiwari’s home the same night but could not find him. He went to the police station the following day, September 12, when he was arrested.
Police action to avoid embarrassment?
Residents allege the police action was disproportionate and was done “hastily” to “save their image”.
People at the event say Tiwari was not promoting alcohol and it was part of a religious tableau, which has been happening for many years.
Kundan Singh, a resident of Ziradei village and a participant in the painting event, said Thread, “The religious painting event took place on Saturday, September 10, at noon. Such paintings are exhibited every year and models of different themes are made and presented through bicycles. In this painting, there was a bicycle around which was installed the structure of a boat. And it was written on the boat – wholesale and retail supply of liquor from Ballia (a region of Uttar Pradesh) to Darauli (a region of Bihar).
Singh added that the motorcycle does not belong to Abhishek. “He comes from a poor farming family. Someone told him to ride the bike for a while. He got on the bike and rode some distance. A video was posted on social media saying the alcohol sales were “openly publicized and the police remained silent bystanders”.
Singh adds: “Actually the purpose of writing about a boat structure in this painting was to tell the police that UP’s liquor shipment is reaching Bihar with the help of boats so that they can to act.”
Tiwari is a school dropout and works as an electrician. Locals say he is “innocent” and poor. They swear to fight the case together and raise money for the same. They recalled that three years ago a similar boat-shaped performance was made and the theme centered on alcohol.
A YouTube video of the 2019 painting shows a boat structure mounted on a bicycle with a slogan saying the booze crossed the border and reached Bihar. Wine bottles were also part of the picture. On the other side it was written: “UP to Bihar border peer– a comment on how the alcohol allegedly came from UP in Bihar.
The last painting started in the village of Ziradei and traveled to the nearby village of Jamapur and its market. Police have been deployed to the market area to manage the crowds. The painting passed in front of the police.
Once the video of the chalkboard hit social media, it was shot in such a way that the young man in question was campaigning for the sale and consumption of alcohol in the presence of the police. Some even called the police “silent spectators”. Local news channels even ran the story with unrelated captions, giving it a completely different spin.
Locals say it was “embarrassing for the police”, and the local superintendent of police only addressed the matter after the video went viral. They say the charges against Tiwari consisted of a “false story”.
The SHO wrote in its application, “As soon as we saw this bike, due to the large crowd, we tried to grab it by running on foot. But, the young people managed to escape with the bike because of the crowd. After that, I asked the locals about the young people. Then his name was given as Abhishek Tiwari.
But residents say the youths did not attempt to run away after seeing the police. Another youngster, who was present at the scene, said on condition of anonymity: “The police and the administration were fully aware that the legend written on the board had nothing to do with the alcohol supply. But, it is now clear that the police took this step to save face.
Deenbandhu Singh, a local journalist, said Thread, “In Siwan, a batch of liquor comes freely by boat from Uttar Pradesh across the river regularly. Every local person knows that. The control is done more or less on the road, but the alcohol that comes from the rivers is not controlled.
Many deaths have been reported in recent years due to the consumption of fake liquor in Bihar.
“Through the chart, an attempt has been made to show that alcohol comes to Bihar by boats. It was just notifying the system in some way. If he was promoting the sale, he would have written down his address, location and cell phone number. But nothing like that was written, so how did it become publicity? asked the reporter.