One of our members, Mrs Malabika Ghoshal narrates to Mousumi Gupta a chilling experience of an armed gherao during a visit to Parasnath temple in Bihar in the early-1990s when her husband was posted in Bokaro (now in Jharkhand).
The Ghoshals, along with their children, started off for the Shikharji temple atop the 1,350m-high Parasnath hill quite early in the morning. They decided to go for the darshan first and then have breakfast at the base of the hill on which the temple stands.
As planned, the family offered puja along with other pilgrims and came down the hill, wondering where to have the breakfast. By the time they traversed the distance between the foothill and the main road, they could feel a strange sense of unease pervading the air.
“Some men sporting red headbands and brandishing weapons were running around and were forcibly shutting down all roadside shops. The moment they caught glimpse of us, they started shouting at us and snatched the food we were carrying. The men threw away the food and herded us into the waiting cars. They even kept banging on the bonnets with metal rods in rage,” said Mrs Ghoshal, narrating the horror story.
“After some time, we could gather that one of their leaders had been killed in an encounter the previous day against which they were protesting.”
With no option left, everyone sat inside their respective cars praying to god. “The children started to cry in hunger after some time. But everyone was so panic-stricken that no one dared to alight from the safety of the vehicles. Morning turned to afternoon and then to evening, the torture seemed never-ending. Our only prayer was that we remained fine and alive,” recounted Mrs Ghoshal.
“When the tormentors grew a bit tired late in the evening, we started stepping out of the cars in search of food. Our son, along with the driver, went a distance to fetch some food. As we lost sight of them, a police van reached the spot and took control of the situation. The police personnel immediately ordered us to leave the place. They warned us that if we did not comply, it would be difficult for them to help us any further.”
“We started to panic as our son and driver were not there. Thankfully, just then, we could spot them in the distance running towards us, maybe they too had seen the approaching police van. In the blink of an eye, all vehicles stranded at the trouble spot dispersed and sped away. Thank god, all of us could come back unhurt and safe. That day will forever be etched in my mind,” said Mrs Ghoshal, with a sense of relief on her face, even after almost three decades.
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