Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday personally intervened to allow Left leader Kanhaiya Kumar and the Congress's anti-Citizenship Amendment Act march, which was blocked by the West Champaran district administration, allegedly at the instance of a BJP member of parliament. In a show of strength, the Janata Dal United chief, who has made his unease on the centre's National Population Register public, dialed the concerned district officers and "scolded" them for the move.
Kanhaiya Kumar and Congress MLA Shakeel Ahmed Khan on Thursday began their protest march from Bhitiharva in West Champaran. After a while, they were stopped by the district administration, which said their permission had been cancelled. According to the former students' leader, the action was taken at the instance of local MP and Bihar BJP President Sanjay Jaiswal.
Both Kanhaiya Kumar and the Congress legislator were also detained by the administration.
Nitish Kumar, sources say, watched the high-voltage drama on television news and phoned district administration, reprimanding them for blocking the protest march. Sources say he told the district officers, including police officials, that every citizen had the right to protest and it was the state's duty to provide security to the protesters.
After the CM's rap on the knuckles, the administration not only allowed the protest march but also escorted the protesters to the venue of their scheduled public meeting.
Nilesh Ramchandra Deore, District Magistrate of West Champaran, said that Kanhaiya Kumar was not given permission to hold rally to law and order problem. "Kanhaiya Kumar was permitted to start yatra from Bhitiharwa and rejection order to hold rally at Bettiah was communicated well in advance due to failure on part of organisers and law & order problems in Bettiah town," he said.
He also said that the Left leader was neither arrested nor detained by officials.
Kanhaiya Kumar, one of the most forceful critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, thanked Mr Kumar for his gesture, and said it was a "slap on the face" of the BJP MP.
Earlier this week, Mr Kumar had indicated that he was not entirely on board with the National Population Register or the NPR in its current form.
"There is a lot of confusion and panic regarding the NPR. New questions have been added and we want it to be dropped," he was quoted as saying by leaders who attended a meeting with the Chief Minister.
As for the Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA, the Chief Minister -- whose party has voted in favour of the law in parliament despite their earlier opposition -- had said everyone should just wait for the Supreme Court's verdict.
Nitish Kumar on Wednesday expelled two of his closest aides, Prashant Kishor and Pavan Varma, after weeks of acrimony over their open criticism of his stand on the citizenship law.