One person was killed allegedly in police firing in Bihar’s Munger town after violent clashes erupted between the police and a group of people over delay in the immersion ceremony of a Durga idol, the Hindustan Times reported. Over 25 persons, including 20 personnel were injured in the clashes, which took place on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.

An altercation reportedly broke out over the manner in which the ceremony took place. Prakash Bhagat, a member of a committee overseeing the immersion, told the newspaper that more than 53 Durga idols were installed in Munger. Out of these, 15 were taken for immersion in the Ganga river at the Deendayal Chowk on the night of the clashes.

Traditionally, the idols are immersed after three days of Vijayadashami. But the police this time insisted on immersing them before 5 am on Tuesday, in view of the first phase of the Assembly elections in the state.

Several organisers objected to this and allegedly started pelting stones at the police. The personnel responded by baton charging the angry crowd. When the situation escalated, they reportedly opened fire. Later personnel from the Bihar Military Police and paramilitary forces were also deployed in the affected areas.

“During [the] Durga puja immersion, some anti-social elements resorted to stone-pelting which left 20 policemen injured, Lipi Singh, superintendent of police, Munger, told NDTV. “After this someone from the crowd fired, leading to one death.” Singh added that the situation was under control by Tuesday morning.

The police claimed it was compelled to fire to disperse the mob, which allegedly retaliated with counter firing. “Rumours were spread and attempts were made to vitiate the atmosphere after the incident,” an unidentified police official said. He added that the police recovered three country-made pistols with some live and empty cartridges from the crowd.

The deceased was later identified as 18-year-old Anurag Kumar Poddar. He was reportedly shot in the head. “Seven persons also received bullet injuries while one of them who is critical was rushed to Bhagalpur for better treatment,” Deputy Superintendent of Munger Sadar Hospital Dr Niranjan, told the Hindustan Times.

The station house officers of Sangrampur, Kotwali, Kasim Bazar, Basudeopur police stations were among the 20 police personnel injured in the clashes.

The situation in Munger and surrounding areas continued to remain tense on Tuesday despite the deployment of a large security force. The city’s district magistrate, Rajesh Meena, and Superintendent of Police Singh visited the site of violence and were present there till 3 am on Tuesday until the situation was brought under control.

“The police took the help of public representatives to facilitate the immersion,” Meena said. He also appealed to people to adhere to prohibitory orders and assured them that further investigation is underway. “We are seeking video footage from local residents,” he added.

Politicians condemn police firing

Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan said the police’s decision to open fire on devotees showed the “Talibani rule of Nitish Kumar government”. He demanded strict action against the responsible police personnel.

“Munger police should be charged with murder,” Paswan tweeted. “Devotees were fired upon in the ‘Taliban-like’ rule of Nitish Kumar. The area Superintendent of Police should be immediately suspended and an FIR should be registered. The family of the victim should be given ₹ 50 lakh and a government job.”

Communist Party of India leader Kanhaiya Kumar also called for a strict inquiry against the police personnel who opened fire on the crowd.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, meanwhile, shared a video of the incident and said: “Will the Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal (United) government thrash Durga worshippers like animals? Will the BJP-JD(U) government kill people for immersing Durga idol. Yes, these images are from Munger in Bihar. First they lathicharged the disciples and then police fired on them.”