Union minister's son held for Bhagalpur riots

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey's son Arijit Shashwat was arrested in Patna on Sunday for his involvement in the recent communal clashes in Bhagalpur.

The arrest came barely a few hours after a Bhagalpur court rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Shashwat against whom an arrest warrant was issued on March 24.

"We had information that Shashwat was at the famous Hanuman temple in the vicinity of Patna Junction. A police team reached the spot and arrested him and he has been sent to Bhagalpur", Senior Superintendent of Police (Patna) Manu Maharaj said.

The police produced Shashwat at the residence of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate A R Upadhyay, who sent him to 14-days judicial custody, public prosecutor Satya Narayan Prasad Sah said.

On his arrest, Shashwat told reporters "...I have been wrongly accused of evading arrest. If raising slogans in praise of 'Bharat Mata' and 'Sri Ram' is a crime then I may be called a criminal."

Shashwat has been named, besides eight others, in one of the two FIRs lodged following the communal riots that broke out on March 17 after some people objected to the loud music being played during a procession led by him.

Several people, including two policemen, were injured in the clashes that witnessed heavy stone-pelting, arson and exchange of fire.

The delay in Shashwat's arrest had invited strong criticism from the Opposition parties in Bihar, especially the RJD-Congress combine, which accused the Nitish Kumar government of soft-peddling the matter. Choubey had dubbed the FIR a piece of garbage.

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