Patna/Gaya, May 8: A Janata Dal United lawmaker's son allegedly shot dead a Class XII student in Gaya town last night, angry that a Maruti Swift would not let his Land Rover overtake it.
Accused Rakesh "Rocky" Ranjan, 23, is the son of Manorama Devi, a member of the legislative council, and Rashtriya Janata Dal muscleman Bindeshwar "Bindi" Yadav who terrorised Gaya in the 1990s.
Aditya Sachdeva, 19-year-old son of businessman Shyam Sunder Sachdeva, was shot in the head inside the Swift in which he was travelling with four friends. Neither he nor Rocky was at the wheel of their vehicles.
The police are looking for Rocky and have arrested Bindi on the charges of helping him flee and tampering with evidence by trying to hide the Land Rover.
Aditya sat in the Swift's backseat between classmates Ankit and Ayush while Kaifi, elder brother of another classmate, sat in front beside his friend Nasir who owned the car and was driving it.
The boys had just hitched a pleasure ride to Bodhgaya, where Nasir had some business to attend to, after celebrating the birthday of another classmate, Abhishek. They were on their way back to Gaya, about 100km south of Patna.
"We saw an SUV signalling to us that it wanted to overtake our car but we didn't let it," Ankit told this newspaper today. "Then someone from the SUV fired in the air and shouted at us to stop our car."
Nasir did, and four men - Rocky, Manorama's police bodyguard Rajesh Kumar, the driver and an unidentified man - stepped out of the SUV and "ran menacingly towards our car", Ankit said.
"The men attacked Nasir through the window. Rocky whipped him with a pistol butt and the group tried to open the doors," Ankit added.
"Frightened, Nasir tried to drive away. We had hardly driven a few metres when Rocky fired from behind. The bullet pierced the windshield and Aditya slumped forward. When I lifted him, blood was oozing from the back of his head. It was around 8.15pm."
Aditya was declared dead on arrival at the Anugrah Narayan Medical College and Hospital.
The combination of an expensive vehicle, young suspect and influential father has similarities with a hit-and-run in Calcutta in January. Sambia Sohrab, son of former Rashtriya Janata Dal MLA and now Trinamul leader Mohammed Sohrab, had vanished after allegedly knocking down and killing an air force corporal off Red Road but was later arrested.
In the Gaya case, Rajesh, the police bodyguard, has been arrested on the charge of dereliction of duty, additional director-general of police (headquarters) Sunil Kumar said.
"He neither stopped the offender from committing the crime, nor was he supposed to travel with the VIP's son," Kumar said. The police have seized the Land Rover from Manorama's home.
Police sources said the pistol belonged to Rocky, a member of the Rifle Club in Delhi, and that they were checking whether he had a gun licence.
Kumar admitted that Bindi had been issued an arms licence, and also had a police bodyguard, despite facing dozens of criminal charges.
Bindi, former vice-president of the Gaya zilla parishad, ran a parallel administration in Gaya in the 1990s when Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi ruled Bihar. His reign of terror and penchant for grabbing houses of the rich is said to have forced many businessmen to migrate from the town.
Police sources said that he had been arrested in 2011 with 6,000 live cartridges and sophisticated weapons such as AK-47 and AK-56 assault rifles, and is out on bail. His suspected Maoist links have led to a sedition case against him.
Asked if Rocky too had faced criminal charges before, Kumar said: "We are checking the records."
Chief minister Nitish Kumar, who returned from Kerala today, avoided the media at the airport but ruling ally Lalu Prasad and his son and deputy chief minister Tejaswi said the offenders would not be spared.
Leader of the Opposition and local MLA Prem Kumar of the BJP said the incident implied the "return of jungle raj" in Bihar.
A mob blocked a road in Gaya for a while today, and several students' organisations have called for a Gaya bandh tomorrow.
After the shooting, Ankit said, "we frantically started calling Aditya's family while Nasir sped the car towards hospital".
"By the time Aditya's family members reached the hospital, he was dead. All of us stayed back at the hospital last night. After post-mortem, the body was handed over to Aditya's family today."
Several Janata Dal United lawmakers and their family members have been embroiled in controversy in recent months.
In January, MLA and former minister Bima Bharti had been accused of attacking a police station in Purnea district with her supporters to help husband Awadhesh Mandal escape from custody. Mandal, accused in 40-odd criminal cases, had been arrested for threatening murder witnesses.
Sarfraz Alam, Janata Dal United MLA from Jokihat, was arrested on the charge of molesting a woman passenger on a Delhi-bound train.