On 11th July 1996, 21 landless peasants from among the dalits and minorities were brutally massacred in Bhojpur by the Ranveer Sena. After a long battle to ensure justice, a Sessions court in Ara, Bihar had convicted 23 people of perpetrating this gruesome massacre in May 2010. While three persons were awarded capital punishment, the remaining twenty were handed life imprisonment.
And now, the Patna High Court has shockingly acquitted ALL the 23 people accused in the Bathani Tola case, one of the worst ever dalit massacres in the history of India. A Division Bench of judges Navneeti Prasad Singh and Ashwani Kumar Singh cited “defective evidence” to acquit all of them.
It is a well-known fact that the Bathani Tola massacre, like the one at Laxmanpur Bathe, was orchestrated by the Ranveer Sena – such massacres were politically masterminded to quell the growing social and political assertion of the poor and the underprivileged under the leadership of the revolutionary Left in Bihar.
And, instead of ensuring justice in such cases of brutal feudal violence, Nitish’s Kumar’s government is hell bent on protecting and providing immunity to feudal forces in the state. Almost as soon as the Nitish government came to power, it disbanded the Amir Das commission, which pointed out the strong links between the powers-that-be (including JD(U), BJP, Congress as well as RJD) and feudal powers like the Ranveer Sena.
The RJD regime had avoided bringing Brahmeshwar Singh to book, and had tacitly supported the Ranveer Sena against the CPI(ML). Not surprisingly, in Nitish’s regime of so-called “good governance”, Ranveer Sena head Brahmeshwar Singh was released because the government failed to oppose his bail plea, and now the perpetrators of Bathani Tola have been given a clean chit! And now Nitish’s regime is presiding over the open exoneration of such forces of feudal barbarism in Lakshmanpur Bathe and Bathnitola.
Why Bathani Tola Can NEVER Be Forgiven and Forgotten
On 11th July 1996, killers of Ranvir Sena brutally massacred 21 people including 12 women and 8 children in cold blood. The abdomen of a pregnant woman was slit open. A little infant’s tongue was cut off before the tiny tot’s head was chopped off with a sword, another little baby’s fingers were severed from his hand. A new born baby cringing in its mother’s lap was butchered with a sword and their hut set ablaze. A girl in the prime of her youth was raped and her breasts chopped off before she was put to death. Among those injured, two little children lost their fight for life. In many ways, the Bathani Tola massacre provided the template, in its barbarity and ferocity, for the Gujarat genocide of 2002.
Bathani Tola, and other similar massacres were orchestrated with the clear aim to punish those who ‘dared’ to raise their voices against oppression and exploitation – most of those killed were supporters and sympathizers of CPI(ML) Liberation, and were actively involved in struggles to break the stranglehold of feudal forces in Bihar. The Ranvir Sena was formed in the early 1990s with the declared objective of protecting the crumbling edifice of feudalism from the fury of the revolutionary movement of poor peasants of Bhojpur. They challenged with all their might: “We will not allow Bhojpur to be turned into Russia or China; with our guns we will remove all signs of red flag not only from Bhojpur but from the entire country, we will re-establish the social system of our ancestors and revive the old customs and laws“.
Right from its inception, Ranveer Sena put to death hundreds of innocent people in the Sahar and Sandesh blocks of Bhojpur alone, majority of whom are from the dalit, most backward and Muslim communities. Several times, Ranveer Sena has openly targeted ML activists, who have been threatened and murdered. In the beginning, the leadership of the Sena was with the Congress, later they switched over to BJP, and with this, the minority community became their specific target.
Where Communal and Feudal Forces Join Hands….. Backdrop of the Bathani Tola Massacre
In the village panchayat elections of 1978, Mohammed Yunus, defeated the then mukhiya Kesho Singh and took his place. The upper caste feudal psyche could not bear this defeat. They started taking revenge against the Muslims. First, they captured the road in front of the Imambara and then took over the Imambara itself. A case was lodged with the regional administrator on 13 August 1991, who gave the charge for investigation to one of his subordinates. Though the report confirmed the encroachment, the administration did not take any decisive step against this. In 1992-93, the landlords destroyed the Imambara and burnt the flags after tearing them to pieces. An F.I.R. was lodged in the local police station and a case was filed. 13 days after the Bathani Tola massacre, on 23rd July 1996, this case was decided in the court. The judgement says that there is no proof of any Imambara being there.
In the same way, the Kabristan land was also occupied. Mohammed Nayeemuddin filed a case against 14 people in 1993 and demanded that a boundary be constructed around the Kabristan. Due to shortage of money the case could not be fought till the end and was dismissed. But the encroachment continued as before. The Ranvir Sena people had captured the Kabristan and Karbala land in Kanpahri (Sahar) and Navadih (Tarari). On 10 Jan 1996, Karbala Mukti Jan Jagran March was organised to protest occupation of this land. The Ranvir Sena men attacked the people who were coming from a meeting at Kanpahri. But their attack was resisted. The tension increased, yet the government did not make any effort to free the occupied land. Though Laloo Yadav declared that all burial land would be protected, nothing was done. In the month of Ramzan, on 25 April 1996, Mohammed Sultan was killed and his body was not allowed to be buried in the Kabristan of Kharaon by the Ranvir Sena gang. Here also they were planning to murder several people but this was prevented after the body was taken to the adjoining village of Chatarpura and buried there. They still were not satisfied and attacked the Muslim tolas of village Kharaon and also other houses of ML supporters and looted their belongings. 50 families became homeless out of which 18 families were Muslim. Many of these families settled in Bathani Tola including that of Mohammed Nayeemuddin. But since the Masjid was located in the Ranvir Sena area they could not go for their Id prayers out of fear.
Still the tension did not subside. Now Bathani Tola had become a target and from the beginning of May to 11 July 1996, the Sena goondas made 7 attacks on this Tola. The police remained inactive each time but the villagers chased the goondas through their own might. On 11 July 1996, the Sena goons were successful and 5 members of Mohammed Nayeemuddin’s family were murdered and one infant died in hospital later. Mohammed Nayeemuddin and his wife were saved because they were not in the village at that time. Some say that the question of wages and land was behind the gruesome massacre but the reality is that this contradiction had been resolved one year back and there was no economic blockade in the village. The Shankar Sharan investigation team report also confirms this fact and the reality is that the struggle started only after this, so the propaganda that the massacre was a result of this contradiction is unfounded. Secondly, the manner in which the massacre took place points to an atmosphere of communal frenzy, hatred and vendetta; factually and logically, all indicators point to the communal character and backdrop of this massacre.
Fight for Establishment of Democracy
The Bathani Tola massacre and the government response is a living example of how Bihar is being converted into the graveyard of democracy. In this game, all the forces of darkness and retrogression have united — the forces that constitute the mafia and feudal vested interests.
In the present scenario of Bihar, where the JD(U)-NDA regime is politically linked to the upper-caste feudal gangs, there is no neutrality left in its investigative apparatus. No wonder, in case after case of dalit massacres perpetrated by the private feudal army of Ranveer Sena no justice is being delivered. It is urgent therefore that Supreme Court reopens and monitors all the cases related to massacres and violent crimes perpetrated by the Ranveer Sena in Bihar. The heinous crimes of the feudal communal forces like Ranveer Sena cannot be allowed to go unpunished due to the protection and collusion of a politically pliant regime.
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