16 GET DEATH IN ’97 DALIT CARNAGE IN BIHAR

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THIRTEEN years after 58 unarmed Dalits were massacred by Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords, in Jehanabad, a Bihar court sentenced 16 persons to death.

10 others were sentenced to life terms and also slapped with a fine of Rs 31,000 each by additional district judge Vijay Prakash Mishra.

The massacre by the Ranvir Sena at Laxmanpur Bathe in Jehanabad on December 1, 1997, had send shockwaves across the country. The Lalu Prasad-led RJD government was then ruling the state.

The victims, landless agricultural workers and their families, were supporters of the CPI (ML) Party Unity. Among those killed were 27 women and 16 children. The victims were from the backward communities of Paswan, Chamar, Mahto, Mallah, Rajwar and Barbar.

In the well-planned operation, about 100 Ranvir Sena activists carrying firearms had descended on Lakshmanpur Bathe, 125 km from Patna, at around 11 pm.

They forced their way into huts by breaking open the doors and fired indiscriminately at people who were asleep. The entire hamlet located on the banks of the Sone river was virtually decimated in the attack that lasted
more than three hours.

The main aim of the killers was to terrorise the sympathisers of the
CPI(ML) Party Unity to strengthen the stranglehold of the powerful landlords in central Bihar.

Earlier, the case was transferred to Patna from Jehanabad following a Patna High Court order in October, 1999.

Charges were framed in the case against 46 sena men on December 23, 2008, 11 years after the massacre.

Altogether 91 of 152 witnesses in the case deposed before the court.

Those sentenced to death were Girija Singh, Surendra Singh, Ashok Singh, Gopal Sharan Singh, Baleshwar Singh, Dawarka Singh, Vijendra Singh, Nawal Singh, Baliram Singh, Nandu Singh, Sheomohan Sharma, Pramod Singh, Shatrughan Singh, Ramkeval Sharma, Dharma Singh and Nand Singh, all belonging to an upper caste community.

Those sentenced to life imprisonment were Babloo Sharma, Ashok Singh, Mithilesh Sharma, Dharikshan Choudhary, Navin Kumar, Ravindra Singh, Surendra Singh, Sunil Kumar, Pramod Kumar and Chandreshwar Singh. Two other accused Bhukhal Singh and Sudarshan Singh died in the course of the trial.

58, including women, kids, were massacred

  • BEFORE the verdict was delivered, Balram Paswan, a relative of one of the victim’s who was killed, said:”We are at last hoping for justice.” 
  • LAXMANPUR BATHE situated on the banks of the Sone river in Jehanabad district was targeted by armed Ranvir Sena men, who butchered Dalits to death on Dec 1, 1997. According to police records, four Dalit families were completely wiped out in the bloodbath.
  • A POLICE officer associated with the probe said charges were framed against 46 men of the upper caste militia Ranvir Sena on December 23, 2008, on charges of killing 58 people, including 27 women and 10 children. Jailed Ranvir Sena chief Barmeshwar Singh, alias Mukhiajee, was one of the accused in the case.
  • SOON AFTER the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre, the state government then led by Rabri Devi set up the Amir Das Commission to probe the political connections of the Ranvir Sena.
  •  BUT THE commission was wrapped up by chief minister Nitish Kumar soon after he came to power in 2006. Opposition parties, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal and CPI-ML, alleged that the Nitish Kumar government was protecting the interests of the Ranvir Sena and suppressing the voice of the poorest of the poor.

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