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Justice Not Vengeance The Bathani Tola Massacre and the Ranbeer Sena in Bihar #MUSTREAD

 

BELA BHATIA, EPW

Recent judgments of the Bihar High Court have
acquitted the perpetrators of organised massacres of
dalits and other oppressed groups. What is public
knowledge could not be proved in the court of law. It is
now over a year since the high court judgment in the
Bathani Tola case of 1996 was challenged in the
Supreme Court. The hearings are yet to begin. A closer
look at this massacre, and the everyday criminal
activities that preceded it, shows how absence of timely
intervention enhances predisposition to crime and paves
the way to repeated massacres. As this case illustrates,
the tardy and often biased functioning of the Indian
judicial system undermines its basic purpose. Where
justice fails, vengeance prevails

It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit
of man.
Albert Einstein
1 Introduction
D
oes our vision of ourselves as a “developed” society include a self-understanding of also being “just”? One
would think the answer to be fairly obvious. The Bihar
High Court verdict (16 April 2012) in the Bathani Tola massacre
case, however, belies this simple assumption, making us
pause, and think. This small hamlet in the Sahar block of Bhojpur district was witness to a gruesome massacre of 21
and Muslim women and children one July afternoon 17 years
ago (1996) at the hands of the Ranbeer Sena, a private army of
upper-caste landed local gentry. Family members, relatives
and comrades of the victims have since awaited justice. While
justice could not bring back their loved ones, nor return their
lost years or selves, it might have set right the contours of a
world view that had gone terribly wrong that afternoon when
evil triumphed over good and the extreme violence deployed
by neighbour upon neighbour left in its wake a bereaved,
bitter bewilderment at the unfathomable darkness of the
human personality.
Their wait was a long one. On 5 May 2010, nearly 14 years
after the incident, the Ara sessions court convicted 23 of the
68 accused, sentencing three to death and 20 to life imprisonment.1
The high court however reversed gear, acquitting all
of them. The judgment, predictably, met with public outrage
and was called a “judicial massacre”.2 On 16 July 2012 an
appeal was admitted in the Supreme Court on behalf of the
victims as well as the state of . The case has moved
no further.
Before we go on to further analysis, it may be worth our
while to have a closer look at the events as they unfolded on
that fateful day, the class confl ict that prevailed then, and the
everyday incidents of violence that the people of the area had
been experiencing for the previous two years, the build-up of
which led to the Bathani Tola massacre, and subsequently
other massacres.
This essay relies on fi eldwork conducted in Bhojpur during
1995-96 as part of my doctoral dissertation (Bhatia 2000), including interviews with the victims

and their families, landlords and members of the Ranbeer Sena, Communist Party of
India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation (hereafter CPI-ML) cadres,
and government offi cials. I have also used newspaper reports
that were published at the time. Sections 2-5 were written

soon after the massacre and have been retained here with only
marginal changes.
2 Yet Another Massacre
Yet another massacre has taken place in Bhojpur, this time in
Bathani Tola (hamlet) of Barki Kharaon village in Sahar. At a
distance of 43 km on the Ara-Sahar road is Khera, a 3-km walk
from Khera on the kuccha road brings one to Barki Kharaon
and after another 10 minutes one is in Bathani Tola, the site of
the massacre. In the afternoon of 11 July 1996, 19 poor dalit
and Muslim women and children were killed while fi ve sustained bullet injuries and deep cuts of swords and other sharp
implements. Two of the injured succumbed to their injuries the
following month, bringing the toll of the massacre to 21 (out of
eight children who were killed, two were less than a year old).
The sky had been overcast that morning. Fierce clouds and
the interminable drizzle seemed to portend another onslaught
of heavy rains. Under the weak sun, Bathani Tola, tucked away
in the midst of stretching fi elds on all sides, was silent except
for the sounds of everyday life. Naimuddin, a 35-year-old Muslim of the Churi-Pharosh caste and a local leader of the CPI(ML),
who was to lose fi ve members of his family in the following
hours said “Hum bargad ke ped ke nichai baith kar khaini bana
rahe thai. Aur bhi kuch bhai sath baithe huai thai.” (I was sitting under the bargad tree and preparing khaini; a few other
men were also sitting with me.) Besides these men, women
were engaged in their daily chores, or huddled inside taking
an afternoon nap, while children, not deterred by whimsical
nature, continued to play in the slush and mud, their cries and
laughter making the day seem like any other.
But it was not a day like any other. A little after 2 pm the
i nhabitants were jolted when they heard shots in the air and
realised that what they had dreaded for some time had happened – a mob of 100-150 armed men had surrounded their
tola and were fi ring indiscriminately. Panic spread like wild
fi re. Shouts, screams, the sound of running feet, seemed to
rent the air. Trying to save their children, the women and men
rushed to gather them, and ran in search of a safe shelter.
There were as many as 50 Muslim and dalit families who had
run away in late April from the main village, Barki Kharaon,
and sought shelter in this tola, where their new dwellings did
not even have doors. These families searched for houses with
sturdy doors. Naimuddin narrates: “Gathering all my family
together I put them in Marwari Mallah’s house and ran to fi nd
a safe hiding place. They would not touch women and children
I thought.” Marwari Mallah’s house with a large angan (courtyard) enclosed

within a concrete wall became a refuge for
many families and children like Kusum who had come from
the mallah part of the tola; she was playing with the children
of the displaced families and had no time to run to her own
home. Her mother Armanodevi later bemoaned, “If she had
not gone to play that day she would have been safe”.
The assailants attacked from three sides and from the sound
of their shots it was clear that every second they were moving
closer. Soon the rising fl ames from the northern and western
ends of the tola signalled that two houses on that side had

been torched. In the next half-an-hour another six houses were
burnt, most belonging to those who had resettled recently,
or to those who had dared to support and shelter them, like
Marwari Mallah. The houses had been on fi re for around halfan-hour when it started pouring. And in the rain, the rampage
of killings began.
“Men carrying guns broke the door and came inside. They
started cutting the throat of Bhauji with a phasuli (sickle). I
was scared and ran and hid under a chowki (a bed made of
plain wooden planks)”, said Salma, fi ve-year-old daughter of
Naimuddin, who was amongst those who had taken refuge in
the walled house of Marwari Mallah (as reported in Ajay Singh
(1996)). Inside the courtyard these women and children sat
cringing and clinging to each other under the mahua tree
when the door fi nally gave way. Dressed in ganjis, lungis or
dhotis tied as lungis, the faces of some of their attackers were
concealed with gamchas while most had not tried to hide their
identity. They were armed with not only guns and rifl es but
also swords, phasulis, katas, gadasis and lathis.
In the frenzy that followed, the women and children tried to
escape through whatever avenues were available. Holding her
three-month-old sister to her, Dhanvarti Khatoon, Naimuddin’s 20-year-old daughter, was trying to escape when she was
caught. She was pulled by her hair and a knife thrust through
her. The infant’s wheatish coloured body was found face down
on the muddy earth; according to some witnesses she had
been fl ung in the air and a sharp instrument pierced into her
body as she fell. Najma Khatoon, Naimuddin’s daughter-inlaw, was running with six-year-old Saddam Hussein when a
bullet hit her thigh and she fell. When she felt that the attention of the assailants was no longer on her she tried to run with
Saddam again. She had hardly taken a step or two when another bullet hit her, this time in the ribs; she fell and her clutch
on Saddam loosened. Saddam was then attacked by three or
four men who tried to chop him with swords and katas.
Naimuddin’s 40-year-old widowed sister, Jaibun Nisha, was
found dead in the position she must have been before the attack, leaning against the wall of the angan with fi ve-year-old
Amir Subhani in her lap. Her throat had been cut and a bullet
had hit her chest while Amir had been hit in the head. Lukhi
Devi, a 60-year-old woman of dhobi mohallah of Barki Kharaon
who had gone to Bathani to return some freshly laundered
clothes, had tried to save herself by hiding under the chowki,
but died due to asphyxiation and burn injuries. Marwari Mallah’s wife, daughter-in-law and grandson, besides six other victims, were found burnt and dead in the angan. Among other
victims were Phool Kumari and Ramratia Devi who were
found dead near their houses in the Rajwad and Dusadh end of
the tola.
Some did manage to escape. Amongst them was 10-year-old
Rajudeen, who ran and jumped in the aahar (part of the traditional irrigation system

built during the colonial period) and
stayed in a corner among a few overhanging shrubs for the
next few hours. Similarly, two children of Babban Chaudhary
were found hiding in kothis (high mud containers used for
storing grain), speechless with fright.

 

There were other survivors who escaped but who will continue to be haunted by those searing images. Radhika, an
18-year-old pregnant woman who had come to her parents’
house for her fi rst delivery from Aurangabad, related to a
r eporter how in the melee that ensued she found herself on a
heap of human bodies where she lay pretending to be dead.
When all seemed silent, thinking that the marauders had
gone, she got up only to fi nd to her horror that the killers were
still lurking around. Panic-stricken she tried jumping over a
wall but one of them, Bacha Singh (a 25-year old man), ordered
her to stop and then a second later fi red at her. She was one of
the fi ve who were found alive by the Bathani Tola men who
had been anxiously watching their tola from their respective
hiding places and returned to it soon after the marauders left.
Others like Hasina Begum, Naimuddin’s wife, had also been
watching Bathani from the outskirts of a neighbouring village
where she had gone that morning to sell bangles. She also
r eturned. Little Salma had by then come out from under the
chowki and woven her way through the scattered, lifeless
b odies to the bargad tree which stood witness to this carnage
(as reported in Ajay Singh (1996)).
Wails and cries now rented the air, heavy with the acrid
smell from the burnt houses. In the evening light, bodies lay
strewn on the wet earth, which bore marks of hundreds of desperate footprints. Even as the men tried to brace themselves
for the next task ahead, taking the wounded to the nearest
hospital, the policemen from the police camp located just
across a fi eld in the middle school of Barki Kharaon fi nally
made an appearance. When they asked the men of the tola to
carry the bodies of the dead to the roadside, they met with stiff
resistance. These protectors of law had turned a deaf ear and a
blind eye to the happenings of that afternoon, now they could
at least carry the dead, the people thought. With the help of
the chowkidar, the police carried the bodies while the relatives
carried the wounded.
The laxity of the Bhojpur administration, both before and
after the massacre, was an extension of the general apathy of
the government machinery in Bihar. As in this case and many
before it, one fi nds that the machinery is not only ill-equipped
and ineffective but often works in an extremely biased manner.
Initially, the district administration wanted the post-mortem
to be done in a makeshift camp near the road itself, which the
CPI(ML) activists resisted, fearing foul play.3
The bodies were
then brought to the government hospital in Ara, where, according to eyewitness reports, they were literally dumped in a
muddy open space. No attempt was made to cover the bodies,
even of women, who lay maltreated in their death as they were
in their life. As the relative of one of the victims said, “Marnai
ke baad bhi garibo ki izzat-aabru ki kisi ko padi nahi hai” (Even
after they die nobody is concerned about the respect and honour of the poor). The surgeon is reported to have taken many
hours to come to the hospital from his home in Ara. CPI(ML)
cadres in their anger broke a few chairs and other furniture in
the hospital for which a case was lodged by the district administration against the two CPI(ML) MLAs, Ram Naresh Ram from
Sahar and Rameshwar Prasad from Sandesh constituencies.

e fi ve wounded, little Baby (barely nine months old with
a fractured thigh) and Shailendra (16 months) were treated in
the hospital at Ara while Radhika, Kusum and Saddam were
rushed to Patna. Even though the quality of health services at
Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH) was reported to be
marginally better than in Ara, it was far from ideal. If doctors
were available, medicines were not, and so on. The general
situation of the whole ward improved after the victims of the
massacre moved there and the CPI(ML) drew the attention of
the media to the pathetic state of the medical services; ceiling
fans were installed, bedsheets were given to all patients and
the quality of food improved.
When I visited them, Radhika wore a stony look and talked
only haltingly; a bullet was still embedded in her left shoulder.
Saddam (born around the 1990 Gulf War and named after the
Iraqi leader) had a deep horizontal cut on his neck, which was
almost severed, making the insides visible. A nerve in the neck
had been partially damaged, leaving a high probability of
p aralysis of his limbs. Lying prostrate on the hospital bed,
Saddam showed the usual recalcitrance expected of a child of
his age. Rarely quiet, he asked to be moved to a more comfortable position, or for his mai (mother) or Deena chacha (father’s
brother), a medically trained CPI(ML) cadre who was tending
to him and who he obviously had grown very fond of, or for
another round of “haitem” (his word for Horlicks). Running a
high temperature and in a delirium, he mumbled the names of
those who had attacked him – Deepwawalla, Belwa,
Suberwa…4
Another time, a barely audible “didi tera dewar
d iwana…” (a popular song from a Hindi Bollywood fi lm)
e scaped his lips, a poignant reminder of the child that he was.
Besides his bed, little Salma, in a bright yellow frock and a
string of colourful beads around her neck, stood quietly looking at her brother.5
3 The Context
As the name suggests, Barki (big) Kharaon is a large village of
more than 400 houses, as opposed to the 100 houses of Chotki
(small) Kharaon a little distance away. In addition, the village
has three smaller tolas, which are almost like separate v illages.
Tandi tola on the north-west has 35 dalit households including
Rajwads, Paswans and Kanu-savs. South-west of Tandi is
Ujwallia tola of approximately 100 houses of which 60 are
brahmin houses (other castes include Kahars, Paswans and
Kanu-savs). South of Tandi is Bathani, a tola of 60-70 houses,
including those of Kanu-savs (about 30), Yadavs (20), Mallahs
(15) and Chamars (5). South of Bathani tola is a canal, and
across the canal is Lodipur village (also in the same panchayat)
with around 100 houses of Yadavs and Mallahs. South-west of
Bathani is Chotki Kharaon, with 50 households of Bhumihars
and the rest of dalits including Chamars, Paswans and others.
If one goes deeper into the history of the formation of these
tolas, not surprisingly one fi nds the root cause to be some painful experience of social or economic oppression which forced
some people to forsake the place of their forefathers and reside elsewhere in order to be able to live in peace and without
fear. Bathani Tola is a clear example of this phenomenon. The

original settlers of Bathani were the Kanu-savs. The Chamars
were from Aurangabad district but 15-20 years ago due to severe repression by the Rajputs there, they came and settled in
Bathani where the villagers accommodated them on the village c ommon (gairmajurwa) land. The other castes, namely,
the Yadavs and Mallahs, used to be part of the main village of
Barki Kharaon but continued to break away after some instance of oppression or another. As Naimuddin said, “Yah log
shuruati daur se hi daman-atyachari rahai hai” (These people
[upper castes of Barki Kharaon] have been exploiters and
o ppressors from the very beginning). The latest addition is a
group of 18 Muslim and 32 dalit households (Kahars, Savs,
R ajwads, Dusadhs, Mallahs), who decided to quit Barki after
one Sultan Miyan was killed in broad daylight on 25 April 1996
(more on this below), and to move to Bathani Tola for protection. There they built around 10-12 mud houses, two to three
families sharing one house. Some of the residents of the tola
were extremely helpful like Marwari Mallah who opened his
house for them, for which he was to pay a heavy price.
Barki Kharaon is one of those few villages in Bhojpur which
has both Bhumihar and Rajput presence (Chotki has only Bhumihars). Both castes are roughly equal numerically (about 60
houses each), as well as in terms of landownership. As one
enters the village, the Rajputs are found towards the east (as
the locals say “purwari patti”); a little lane separates this from
the pachiari patti, where the Bhumihars live. The Rajput area
is also known as Kharaon Bujurg and the Bhumihar area as
Kharaon Chaturbhuj. Even though these two upper castes
together constitute less than half the total number of households, they have enjoyed uncontested supremacy. The Bhumihars and Rajputs are all in one area while the dalits and backwards are scattered all over. Besides these two dominant
castes, other numerically strong castes include Muslims (35
houses) who used to live right next to the Rajputs before they
shifted, Yadavs (25), Koeri (20), Savs (25), Paswan (40),
Chamar (20), Dhobi (20) and others. The Rajputs and Bhumihars own most of the land.6
Notwithstanding previous history of exploitative and often
oppressive agrarian relations, there was relative peace after
the four-month wage strike of 1988. Mazduras (labourers) of
the three Barki tolas as well as nearby villages had joined the
strike. The strikers were demanding a daily wage of Rs 21
along with breakfast and lunch instead of half paseri kacchi
(about 1 kg and 750 gms) of coarse rice which they had been
getting for as long as they could remember. Oddly, or perhaps
not too oddly conceding their feudal mentality, their employers agreed to pay Rs 20 but not the additional rupee. Finally
the CPI(ML) cadres had to resolve the stalemate by suggesting
that the labourers settle for that and start work again. There
was an increase in the wages they received at harvest time too.
Prior to the strike, the harvesters used to receive 1 bojha (headload) for every 21 bojhas of harvested crop. After the strike this
changed to 1 bojha for every 10 bojhas. The increased rate
b enefi ted not only the casual labourers but also the halwahas,
known also as bandhua mazduras (bonded for one agricultural year).

 

of the massacre said that even a few months
earlier they were on talking terms with the Bhumihars and
R ajputs, but this stopped after a series of events which made
them insecure. The fi rst incident occurred in February 1996, on
the occasion of a Karbala Mukti March organised under
CPI(ML) leadership, when two upper-caste men from Barki
Kharaon were killed.7
From then on, there was tension in the
area. On 24 April 1996, Gyanchand Bhagat of the Ganeri caste
of the close by Dhanchua village was found murdered in the
fi elds at two in the afternoon. The two murderers were identi-
fi ed as Jitendra Oza, a brahmin youth of Ujwallia tola and Ajay
Singh, a Rajput of Barki Kharaon, both in their early 20s. No
arrests were made after the event. On the night of 24 April,
v illagers say, a meeting of the Ranbeer Sena was held in Barki
Kharaon. Early in the morning the next day, Sultan Miyan, a
youth in his early 20s, was killed by Ajay Singh and fi ve other
Rajputs of the village as he was going to the local shop to buy
some soap.
Ire of the Upper Castes
A tussle followed after this incident regarding his body.
Naimuddin, who had always stood up to safeguard the interests of the underdog, even at the risk of antagonising the upper
castes, went to considerable length to retrieve the body of Sultan Miyan. This had earned him the ire of the upper castes.
After Sultan Miyan’s murder, the 35 Muslim households knew
that they had no other option than to leave their present dwellings. Their houses were right next to those of the Rajputs and
they feared an attack any time. They decided to seek refuge in
the neighbouring Bathani Tola which was also a CPI(ML)
stronghold. After seeking the cooperation of the Bathani
residents, they moved on 29 April with minimal household
belongings, after locking their houses.
On 30 April, the then superintendent of police (SP) C R Kaswan
(of the Arwal massacre fame), who had been transferred to
Bhojpur just before the Lok Sabha elections in May, visited
Barki Kharaon.8
He sent for Naimuddin. “I had nothing to fear
and so I went when called”, said Naimuddin. But he was in for
a surprise. The SP told Naimuddin that he needed to interrogate him and that he should come to Sahar. He was taken
with the sub-inspector to Sahar where he was arrested on a
murder charge. Naimuddin was kept for 42 hours in the jail at
Sahar and then sent to Ara. He was produced before the chief
judicial magistrate on 2 May. Forty days after his arrest, his
bail petition was accepted and he was released. Upon his return to Bathani, he realised that the displaced families had undergone a lot of tribulations. They had been attacked several
times but due to armed response from the tola the attacks
were unsuccessful. The locks of their houses in the main village had been broken and all their belongings had been taken;
in some cases, even the doors of the houses were not spared.
Some upper-caste families had also forcibly occupied their
houses, for e xample, Gopali Singh had made a door in the wall
which used to separate his house from Naimuddin’s. Some of
the affected pointed out that “Sarkaar ne hi hamko yah dukh
diya hai” (it is the government that has caused us this pain).

Complaints had been sent to the district magistrate (DM), Amir
Subhani, and to the SP, C R Kaswan, but no action was taken.
In the two months that followed, the situation in Barki
Kharaon and nearby villages remained tense. There were
s everal incidents of violence and even murder (see Section 5).
One incident led to another sometimes in retaliation, and this
spiral of violence culminated in the Bathani Tola massacre
on 11 July.
4 The Making of a Caste Sena
Bhojpur, no stranger to militant politics, had been the site of a
caste war since August 1994. New ripples on political waters
had been created by the formation of the Ranbeer Sena (initially called Kisan Suraksha Sangharsh Samiti), described as
the “private army” of upper caste Bhumihar landlords of the
district. The Sena had made its presence felt only too frequently since its formation in four blocks of Bhojpur, namely,
Udwantnagar, Sahar, Sandesh and Charpokhari.
Since most of the assailants of the Bathani Tola massacre
made little effort to conceal their identities, the survivors of
the carnage know who they are in most cases. From this and
other evidence, there is ample proof that those responsible for
the massacre are members of the Ranbeer Sena. A new aspect
of the Bathani Tola massacre, however, is the degree of Rajput
participation. Until then the Ranbeer Sena had been known as
a Bhumihar outfi t, even though, like any other organisation of
that nature, the Sena did hire goondas of other castes, including
Rajputs and members of the backward castes. In the case of
Bathani Tola, the Rajputs joined other members of the Ranbeer
Sena in large numbers and are even said to have led the attack.
This is signifi cant, because there is a history of antagonism
between Rajputs and Bhumihars in the area. The two castes
had rarely joined forces in the same caste sena in the past.9
The origin of the Ranbeer Sena is inextricably linked with
Belaur village in Udwantnagar block, the largest village in the
district with an impressive Bhumihar presence of 500 houses.
Bhumihars, who consider themselves as Brahmarishi brahmins, do not have priestly prerogatives. In their own perception, they are brahmins of a different kind – those who produce dhaan (rice) and give daan (alms) instead of begging for
them. They are the dominant upper caste in the village today.
However, according to oral sources this was not always the
case. A century ago there was a signifi cant presence of the
R ajputs too, but they were driven away by one Ranbeer
C howdhury, a retired military jawan, who had organised the
Bhumihars in the village for this purpose and led several fi ghts
against the Rajputs before the fi nal outcome.10 Ranbeer Chowdhury is popularly known as Ranbeer baba amongst the Bhumihars of this area, especially in Belaur. He is revered as an
exceptional person who had fought to preserve Bhumihar
h onour and supremacy. And thus even today, every time an
occasion arises when Bhumihars have to fi ght in order to preserve their supremacy, they turn to him for inspiration.
In 1993, Deepa Musahar, a mild, helpless looking banihar
(labourer) gave them occasion to gather forces, bring out their
guns as they would their swords and clubs in the old days, and

Ranbeer baba for inspiration. All this, because this
mongrel of a human being had the audacity to ask his malik
(employer or “master”), Deep Narayan Chowdhury, for wages
that were due to him for the previous year. “Deepwa”, as the
maliks like to call their labourers, had to be cut to size, and
thinking thus, the malik shut him up in a room.
It should be mentioned that this was not the fi rst time that
landless agricultural labourers had been exploited and maltreated by their employers in this village. Belaur in this respect
was no different from countless villages in this region which
are replete with similar stories of exploitation, oppression and
humiliation that many Deepa Musahars had to bear silently for
centuries. One oft-mentioned form of social oppression in the
old days was to prohibit labourers from sitting on a khatiya
(string cots), even in front of their own homes. Even guests of
the labourers were subject to the same rules. In other villages,
labourers were required to register the name of every relative
or outsider who visited them with a particular zamindar. Backward caste boys were beaten if they were caught wearing good
clothes. Another outrageous practice for which Belaur is particularly known involved forbidding young brides leaving for
their sasural (in-laws home) from sitting in the doli (palanquin) from the house of the parents, as is required by custom.
The maliks would not tolerate them sitting inside the dolis
when they crossed their houses; the brides of Belaur were
r equired to walk barefoot until the outskirts of the village. The
izzat (honour) of dalit women has always been cheap, and
many prominent upper caste men have been involved in raping them. For example, in the present case, the son of Deep
Narayan Chowdhury is known to have raped several women
including a Yadav woman of the Bhagwanpur tola of the
v illage. Deep Narayan Chowdhury, quite unconcerned, once
commented “maine saand pala hai” (I have raised a bull).
In his dealings with Deepa Musahar, however, Deep
Narayan Chowdhury had not reckoned with the fact that times
had changed. No sooner had the news of this event reached the
other labourers that a rasta roko (road blockade) was o rganised
in protest by local members of the CPI(ML); the B elaur road
(the main thoroughfare linking Ara with Sahar) was jammed.
After the local administration and police intervened, the combined pressure made Deep Narayan release Deepa Musahar
who had been detained for four hours by then. This instance,
besides other strides that the CPI(ML) had made, led some Bhumihar leaders (including Deep Narayan Chowdhury, Dharichan
Chowdhury, and the panchayat mukhiya Shiv Narayan Chowdhury, who were to play a crucial role in the bloody events that
followed) to feel that the CPI(ML) base in the region was growing and that they had to pluck this thorn out before it destroyed
their very existence.11 This led to their m obilisation in the
shape of the Ranbeer Sena. The Ranbeer Sena was banned in
November 1995, but continued to operate in the area, as the
Bathani Tola massacre and subsequent m assacres show.
5 Sequence of Events (August 1994 to July 1996)
Besides the massacres that hit the headlines is a long history of
day-to-day incidents of antagonism and violence. The following

 

sequence of events helps to understand the build-up of t ensions
between the Ranbeer Sena and CPI(ML) in Bhojpur district
from the time of the formation of the former to the Bathani
Tola massacre. This chronology aims to convey the tone and
texture of the ground situation at the time, but r emains only a
partial picture – the reality is likely to be worse.12
1994
10 August (Belaur village, Udwantnagar block): At 10 in the night a
squabble took place between Sunil Chaudhury, a Bhumihar youth in
his early 20s known to be a lumpen, and Sidhnath Sav, a local shopkeeper and CPI(ML) supporter, over a cigarette. As journalist Mammen
Mathew later wrote, cigarette smoking certainly turned out to be injurious to health that day – not for the smoker but for the seller.
Earlier that evening Sunil had tried to buy a cigarette from Sidhnath’s
shop but since Sidhnath could not fi gure out where his son (who
helped him) had kept the packets, he had to return empty handed.
Meanwhile the son returned, found the cigarettes and sold one to another customer. When Sunil saw this person smoking a cigarette and
learnt that it had been bought from the same shop, he was so incensed
that with some of his friends he immediately set out to fi nd Sidhnath
who had closed for the day. Angrily beating at the door, he demanded
that it be opened. Sidhnath refused but explained through the window and also offered him the cigarette. But Sunil’s anger was not to be
appeased and angry poundings on the door continued. Fearing that
the door would break, Sidhnath opened it. The fi ve Bhumihar youths
then nabbed him and his son, and beat them black and blue.
11 August (Belaur, Udwantnagar): At 10 in the morning, Birbal Yadav,
a local CPI(ML) leader who had come to the village to enquire about the
incident, was attacked by around eight to 10 bhumihar goondas, led by
Sunil Chaudhary. They beat him with lathis and raama,
13 shouting,
“Pichada ka yahi man badhaya hai maro isko”. (He is the one who has
encouraged the backwards, beat him). Birbal suffered a serious head
injury. Even though the police were later notifi ed, no action was taken
against the assailants. Instead, a false case was lodged claiming that
Sidhnath Sav and Birbal Yadav had thrown a bomb which had led to
the assault; bail was granted to Birbal only two years later. Instances
such as this and many more which were to follow made transparent
the complicity of the police.
Tension soon enveloped the entire village. This could be especially
felt in Bajar tola and Chakardah tola, located on the main road half a
kilometre away from the main Belaur village, where the dalits live.
Soon a group of around 500 of them had gathered near the bus stand
at Bajar tola. At two in the afternoon this group, a large majority of
them CPI(ML) supporters, fi nally gave expression to their anger when
a private bus owned by one Dharichan Chaudhary of Belaur (also a
leading member of Ranbeer Sena) stopped at the stand. Badu Chaudhary, the conductor of the bus, was pulled down and done to death.
However, there is still some confusion as to who was responsible for
the action. Initially, the CPI(ML) owned it, attributing it to people’s
collective anger.
Badu, also a Bhumihar, was considered a “bad element”. A week prior
to the cigarette incident he had misbehaved with a woman passenger
which had led to a squabble of sorts. Besides, an old man belonging to
the Chamar caste was found murdered in 1993 for which a police case
had been lodged with Badu as the main accused. Another man belonging to the Bijendra Yadav group was also allegedly murdered by him,
for which he had earned the ire of the Yadav community. Bijendra
Yadav, a ganja smuggler and notorious criminal, is a Janata Dal leader
who enjoys considerable clout in the area. That anybody could get
away with killing a man under his patronage is unthinkable to the locals. Moreover, a week preceding the bus stand incident there was
cross-fi re between the Yadavs and the Bhumihars in which Badu was
involved. These incidents and intra-party enquiries have led the
CPI(ML) to claim that members and supporters of their party in their
anger had decided to “arrest” Badu and hold him for some time as a

e tactic. However, their plan was foiled when somebody in the
mob fi red at Badu and killed him on the spot. Conceivably, this could
be the work of some non-CPI(ML) Yadavs who support the Bijendra
Y adav group and took this opportunity to settle scores.
28 September (Belaur, Udwantnagar): Bhumihar goondas attacked
Gung tola (near the Bhumihar tola) and fi red at an old dalit couple,
Ramruchi Ram and Rajkeshwari. They left Rajkeshwari’s dead body
behind and disappeared with Ramruchi Ram’s.
1 October (Belaur, Udwantnagar): 150-200 armed goondas attacked
fi ve tolas of backward and dalit castes – Gung tola, Siyarahi tola, Balwahi tola, Bajar tola and Chakardah tola. While the attackers completely ravaged Gung and Siyarahi tolas, where most of people’s belongings (including their cattle) were taken and their houses completely destroyed, they were unsuccessful in Bajar and Chakardah
tolas because the occupants fi red back in self-defence. The occupants
of the ravaged tolas took refuge in Chakardah and Bajar tolas.
When I visited the site in November 1995, Gung and Siyarahi tolas
wore a desolate and crumbling look. It was diffi cult to imagine that
people lived there once. Near Chakardah tola 60-100 small thatched
huts had sprung up, and women and children were huddled in the
primary school building close by to protect themselves from the cold.
The government had not given them any aid until then except plastic
sheetings to 45 households. They had been assured time and again
that the government would resettle them on gairmajurwa land. But
most of the gairmajurwa land in these areas is in possession of the
landlords, who claim rights over it, and in this particular instance they
are resisting tooth and nail to safeguard their “rights”. A writ petition
has been fi led by them recently and now since the case has become
subjudice, the DM alleges that he is unable to take action.
The local police camp was also supposed to ascertain that the displaced, most of them labourers and sharecroppers, would not be deprived of their share of the produce on the land they had cultivated
prior to their displacement. But none of this has happened. The displaced families have protested against the unresponsive district administration time and again, many dharnas and rallies were organised, but with little effect.
3 October (Maniach village, Sandesh block): One Sambhu Sav was
kidnapped while cutting some grass in the fi elds east of Belaur. He was
later murdered.
17 October (Chasi village, Sahar block): Sri Bhagwan Bari, a CPI(ML)
cadre, had gone early in the morning to the fi elds to ease himself when
he was shot by a Bhumihar of his own village.
20 October (Belaur, Udwantnagar): Rajeshwar Paswan was in the wood
business and used to go to Ara regularly to sell wood. He was returning
from Ara on a tractor when upon reaching Belaur he was shot. He was
rushed to the Patna Medical College Hospital but died on 18 November.
13 November (Belaur, Udwantnagar): A group of around 50-60 armed
individuals attacked Chakardah tola. Firing from both sides went on
for four hours after which they had to retreat. By this time the CPI(ML)
had increased the armed capacity in Chakardah and were ready to retaliate and defend themselves.
14 November (Belaur, Udwantnagar): Prayag Sah, resident of Chakardah tola, was killed as he was returning from the fi eld after his morning ablutions. After killing him the miscreants fi red 300 rounds with
the clear aim of intimidating the residents and forcing them to fl ee
Chakardah. They attempted to take the dead body of Prayag Sah but
failed to do so.
27 November (Bara village, Sandesh): Ramjag Mahato of Bara village
went to Belaur for some medicine for his cattle. He was kidnapped, killed
and his body disappeared. Though not a CPI(ML) supporter, he was killed
because he belonged to a backward caste, clearly on the assumption that
all members of the lower castes must be supporting the CPI(ML).
1995
2 January (Bartiyar village, Sandesh): CPI(ML) cadre Suresh Thakur of
Aahpura village was kidnapped and murdered in Bartiyar. His body
was never found.

3 January (Bartiyar, Sandesh): Early in the morning some Ranbeer
Sena members started fi ring indiscriminately as they were walking on
a village street. Vinod Sah was washing his face on his terrace when a
bullet hit him and he was killed. That very day a dalit youth, Ranvijay,
was returning to Bartiyar in a bus when some assailants shot at him
and ran away. He was admitted in PMCH and survived the wound
which could have proved fatal.
17 February (Belaur, Udwantnagar): Ramji Sah and Indrajit Ram of Chakardah tola, Belaur, make their living by selling cloth. Their merchandise
was snatched and they were fi red at; they escaped death narrowly.
22 March (Chasi, Sahar): Soon after the state assembly elections were
held in this village on 20-21 March, Subhash Yadav was shot dead.
The allegation against him was that he had protested against booth
c apturing and that he was a CPI(ML) supporter.
26 March (Chasi, Sahar): CPI(ML) cadre Lalkeshwar Yadav was shot
dead in the morning as he was going to the fi elds to ease himself.
3 April: Ayodhaya Rai, a local landlord and offi ce bearer of Ranbeer
Sena was killed by CPI(ML) activists.
4 April (Khopira village, Sandesh): At nine in the night Ramanuj Mahato, Avadh Mahato and Kunj Bihari were in their fi elds guarding the
chana (gram) crop, when they were attacked and killed.
After this incident CPI(ML) party leaders approached the administration but government offi cials remained indifferent. Tension in the
area was now building up.
13 April (Gulzarpur village, Sahar): Antu Ram was killed at six in the
morning when he stepped outside his house to help his daughter defecate.
In the face of an indifferent administration which at times
had even sided with the Sena interests, the CPI(ML) had by then
decided that the people should retaliate, while being careful to
focus on particular targets and avoid hurting innocents. All
this time, their aggressors were being supported by the ruling
state government as well as mainstream political parties. The
police targeted the poor and organised many instances of
chapamari (raids); an equal number of such actions in the
houses of the upper castes and suspected members of Ranbeer
Sena were not attempted until much later. Whenever there
were instances of encounter between the two sides, the administration was always seen to trouble members of the CPI(ML).
All this was adequate proof that the district administration was
siding with the landlords. None of them were a rrested nor was
a single weapon confi scated. After every killing of CPI(ML)
members and supporters, the party organised protests and rallies. Each time they were promised monetary compensation
but usually they were given just Rs 500 for c remation. Each
time the government promised that they would arrest the murderers, without any result. In one parti cular instance the DM
announced that he had confi scated 40 weapons, and the chief
minister announced this in the assembly too, but it turned out
to be a hollow claim. The party later demanded that they produce the names of villages and persons from whom the weapons were seized but the administration did not respond.
A State of Terror
Meanwhile the villagers had to cope with this situation. From
every village where such an incident took place, people who
had alternatives left the village and shifted to new places, but
those who had no alternative continued to live where they
were, in a state of terror.
14 April (Ekwari village, Sahar): Rajkeshwari Devi who was sitting
outside her front door was hit by a bullet and killed. Another woman,

Janurata Devi, was injured. They were targeted because they were
dalits and belonged to a family which supported CPI(ML) politics.
19 April (Belaur, Udwantnagar): Jibrail Ansari was known for his
kindness. Over 60, and barely able to make a living out of a pheri, he
had supported his neighbour’s widow and her children (who were
Bhumihars) as best as he could for many years. On 19 April, the Bhumihars of Belaur killed him and threw his body in the village pond.
They had seen him in Gulzarpur village a few days earlier with Gaffarmiyan, a CPI(ML) cadre who was also Jibrail’s brother-in-law. Interestingly, the son of the Bhumihar widow, Jibrail’s neighbour, was the
one who surmised that the body was in the pond when he spotted a leg
amongst the overgrown weeds. At great risk to his personal safety he
lodged an FIR with the police and the body was fi nally fi shed out two
days after the event. According to some other villagers he (Jibrail’s
neighbour) does not stay in the village anymore.
20 April (Gulzarpur, Sahar): Nagendra Ram, CPI(ML) cadre from the
neighbouring village of Dullamchak, had gone to Gulzarpur when he
was kidnapped and then murdered.
29 April (Khopira, Sandesh): Hiralal Sah was murdered at 10 in the
night when he was going to the women’s quarter from the dalan (outhouse where the men sleep).
5 May (Chasi, Sahar): Shivnandan Prasad, a dalit youth of village
Pande Dehri, Charpokhari block, was on his way to Chasi when he was
shot at and seriously injured. He was going to Chasi to pay for a buffalo
he had bought earlier from a Chasi farmer. The 20-25 goondas who
had fi red at him later surrounded the village and started fi ring indiscriminately. The dalits returned fi re when suddenly the police intervened and started fi ring at the dalits too. This put a stop to the action
of the dalits, and getting this respite the attackers escaped. Indeed,
had the police not intervened, it is quite possible that the goondas
would have been overpowered.
5 May (Khopira, Sandesh): A 50-year-old dalit woman was fi red at and suffered serious injuries. She had to undergo treatment in Patna for 3 months.
6 May (Gulzarpur, Sahar): A 25-year-old CPI(ML) cadre, Surendra Sah,
was having a meeting with members of the party when they were
a ttacked and he was killed.
8 May (Ekwari, Sahar): Maura Musahar used to earn his living by carrying dolis. On this day members of the Ranbeer Sena of this village
summoned him with the message that they needed his services. Along
with another person, Maura went to their place to fetch the palanquin.
He was, however, nabbed by them and murdered shortly afterwards
while his friend had a narrow escape. A bullock belonging to Angrahit
Ram was also shot dead.
Soon afterwards 100 Musahar households who used to live very close
to the houses of Sankh Singh (a notoriously oppressive landlord) and
other Bhumihars were attacked, their houses raided and set ablaze.
They had no other option but to run for their lives. These displaced
families now live at a distance of one kilometre from the main village
close to Hanuman Chapra, a tola with a large scheduled caste and
backward caste population.
11 May (Ekwari, Sahar): Goondas of Ranbeer Sena torched another 11
houses, this time of people of the Kahar caste. One of them, Mahendra
Ram, had a heart attack due to the shock and died.
13 May (Ekwari, Sahar): The target of attack now shifted to the Doms.
The Ranbeer Sena goondas set fi re to Badri Dom’s house.
14 May (Chanargadh village, Sahar): In this village close to Ekwari,
some of these goondas tried to take away four buffaloes by fi ring
s everal shots in the air but had to run when the villagers fi red back.
15 May (Ekwari, Sahar): Approximately 100-150 goondas of Ranbeer
Sena gathered in a fi eld close to the tola of the backward castes in the
night, planning to continue their rampage. Suddenly they started
fi ring and invaded fi ve houses belonging to persons of Baniya, Kahar
and Sundhi castes.
17 May (Ekwari, Sahar): As if to complete what they had started two
days earlier, goondas entered the house of one Baliram Sah in the
night, beat up his wife, Tetradevi, and mother, Butna devi, and then
raped his 12-year-old daughter, Asha. While the rape was contested by

Janurata Devi, was injured. They were targeted because they were
dalits and belonged to a family which supported CPI(ML) politics.
19 April (Belaur, Udwantnagar): Jibrail Ansari was known for his
kindness. Over 60, and barely able to make a living out of a pheri, he
had supported his neighbour’s widow and her children (who were
Bhumihars) as best as he could for many years. On 19 April, the Bhumihars of Belaur killed him and threw his body in the village pond.
They had seen him in Gulzarpur village a few days earlier with Gaffarmiyan, a CPI(ML) cadre who was also Jibrail’s brother-in-law. Interestingly, the son of the Bhumihar widow, Jibrail’s neighbour, was the
one who surmised that the body was in the pond when he spotted a leg
amongst the overgrown weeds. At great risk to his personal safety he
lodged an FIR with the police and the body was fi nally fi shed out two
days after the event. According to some other villagers he (Jibrail’s
neighbour) does not stay in the village anymore.
20 April (Gulzarpur, Sahar): Nagendra Ram, CPI(ML) cadre from the
neighbouring village of Dullamchak, had gone to Gulzarpur when he
was kidnapped and then murdered.
29 April (Khopira, Sandesh): Hiralal Sah was murdered at 10 in the
night when he was going to the women’s quarter from the dalan (outhouse where the men sleep).
5 May (Chasi, Sahar): Shivnandan Prasad, a dalit youth of village
Pande Dehri, Charpokhari block, was on his way to Chasi when he was
shot at and seriously injured. He was going to Chasi to pay for a buffalo
he had bought earlier from a Chasi farmer. The 20-25 goondas who
had fi red at him later surrounded the village and started fi ring indiscriminately. The dalits returned fi re when suddenly the police intervened and started fi ring at the dalits too. This put a stop to the action
of the dalits, and getting this respite the attackers escaped. Indeed,
had the police not intervened, it is quite possible that the goondas
would have been overpowered.
5 May (Khopira, Sandesh): A 50-year-old dalit woman was fi red at and suffered serious injuries. She had to undergo treatment in Patna for 3 months.
6 May (Gulzarpur, Sahar): A 25-year-old CPI(ML) cadre, Surendra Sah,
was having a meeting with members of the party when they were
a ttacked and he was killed.
8 May (Ekwari, Sahar): Maura Musahar used to earn his living by carrying dolis. On this day members of the Ranbeer Sena of this village
summoned him with the message that they needed his services. Along
with another person, Maura went to their place to fetch the palanquin.
He was, however, nabbed by them and murdered shortly afterwards
while his friend had a narrow escape. A bullock belonging to Angrahit
Ram was also shot dead.
Soon afterwards 100 Musahar households who used to live very close
to the houses of Sankh Singh (a notoriously oppressive landlord) and
other Bhumihars were attacked, their houses raided and set ablaze.
They had no other option but to run for their lives. These displaced
families now live at a distance of one kilometre from the main village
close to Hanuman Chapra, a tola with a large scheduled caste and
backward caste population.
11 May (Ekwari, Sahar): Goondas of Ranbeer Sena torched another 11
houses, this time of people of the Kahar caste. One of them, Mahendra
Ram, had a heart attack due to the shock and died.
13 May (Ekwari, Sahar): The target of attack now shifted to the Doms.
The Ranbeer Sena goondas set fi re to Badri Dom’s house.
14 May (Chanargadh village, Sahar): In this village close to Ekwari,
some of these goondas tried to take away four buffaloes by fi ring
s everal shots in the air but had to run when the villagers fi red back.
15 May (Ekwari, Sahar): Approximately 100-150 goondas of Ranbeer
Sena gathered in a fi eld close to the tola of the backward castes in the
night, planning to continue their rampage. Suddenly they started
fi ring and invaded fi ve houses belonging to persons of Baniya, Kahar
and Sundhi castes.
17 May (Ekwari, Sahar): As if to complete what they had started two
days earlier, goondas entered the house of one Baliram Sah in the
night, beat up his wife, Tetradevi, and mother, Butna devi, and then
raped his 12-year-old daughter, Asha. While the rape was contested by

asked her to sell him some stuff on credit, which she refused.
Her angry customer immediately fi red at her, killing her on the spot.
5 August (Noorpur village, Barhara block): On this day six dalits
(Ganesh Bind, Tribhuvan Paswan, Sampat Bind, Laxman Bind,
Dashrath Bind and Srihari Bind) were fi shing in the Ganga when a
group of Rajputs belonging to the Ganga Sena attacked them with
guns, rifl es and knives. They were seen to be CPI(ML) supporters because they were poor, dalits, and had voted for CPI(ML) in the state assembly elections; this was enough reason to teach them a lesson. One
would never have learnt the details of this attack were it not for Srihari
Bind, who jumped into the Ganga and continued to swim in spite of
the fact that his neck was cut and his intestines were sticking out of
another wound. It is also said that his intestines were fi sh-eaten when
he was found. He was rushed to the PMCH in Patna where there was
just enough time for him to give his testimony before he died. Since
the dead bodies were found in Chapra while the victims belonged to
Bhojpur district, the police of both sides refused to take up the case. It
is widely rumoured that the massacre was the joint work of the
Ranbeer Sena and Ganga Sena.
12 September (Ekwari, Sahar): Early in the morning as 55-year-old
Rameshwar Sharma left his house he was fi red at and seriously injured. After this, 10,000 people assembled near the village high school
and reiterated the CPI(ML) demand that the weapons of the Ranbeer
Sena be seized, and that the police should be impartial.
28 September (Lachidih village, Tarari block; Lathan village, Agiaon
block): Shital Mahato and Wahida Khatun were killed in these two villages respectively.
7 October (Chauri village, Sahar): Goondas attempted a raid in Chauri
but had to retreat after meeting with stiff resistance. One Bharat
Sharma of Chauri who was part of the gang of goondas was injured.
11 October (Intor village, Charpokhari block): Lallan and Babban
Musahar sustained bullet injuries after an attack on them.
12 October: Murder in Bagar (details not available).
14 October (Banwari, Chauri, Sahar; Karanth village, Tarari block):
On the question of fi shing rights over the village pond, supporters of
CPI(ML) and Ranbeer Sena had an armed encounter which lasted the
whole day. Encounters also took place in Banwari and Chauri villages.
That same day, in Karanth, CPI(ML) supporters set fi re to a private bus
owned by one of the Ranbeer Sena members.
16-21 October (Ara town): In protest against these atrocities, the
CPI(ML) launched a mahadharna (a sit-in protest) for six days. The
dharna continued day and night and was attended by hundreds of
CPI(ML) supporters from different blocks in the district. The main
d emands were: (i) Mukeshwar Yadav, thana-in-charge of Sahar police
station be transferred; (ii) a departmental enquiry against him should
be held and appropriate action taken; (iii) the main accused of the
Sarathua massacre, Brahmeshwar Singh, mukhiya of Khopira village,
should be arrested; he was then roaming about scot-free in Ara.
18 October (Ara town): A hand grenade planted under the main podium
of the mahadharna exploded, seriously injuring 10 supporters of
which one, Paras Ram of Mulkua village in Piro block, died on the way
to the hospital. The attack was clearly aimed at killing some of the
main leaders of the CPI(ML) who were addressing the people or sitting
on the podium. Anticipating an attack, the party had asked the district
magistrate, Amir Subhani, for some security force but this had been
denied. A police van was present at the time of the explosion but the
police blamed the CPI(ML), saying that they had placed the grenade.
This proved to be the turning point in the CPI(ML)’s strategy to deal
with the Ranbeer Sena miscreants and the atrocities that they had
perpetrated so far. It seemed as though people had had enough and
their anger had exploded. In the following days Ranbeer Sena men
were also murdered. The dharna continued as per schedule.
19 October (Imadpur village, Tarari): Two men of Ranbeer Sena were
killed. That very day in Sonbarsa and Bartiyar villages of Sandesh
block, two Bhumihars were shot.
24 October (Gulzarpur, Sahar; Belaur, Udwantnagar; Pavar, Sandesh):
On this day, within six hours, four murders took place. It all started in

Gulzarpur when a 20-year-old youth, Kamlesh Paswan, went to fi sh in
the aahar early in the morning and was found murdered there. Even
some of the Bhumihars in the village admitted that Kamlesh was an
innocent youth and liked by everybody in the village. When news
spread to nearby villages, Umesh Chaudhary, thought to be close to
the Ranbeer Sena, was killed in Belaur. At 10 that morning, Nirmal
Paswan of Pavar village in Sandesh block, who was going about his
duty as a postman, was found murdered around fi ve kilometres from
Belaur. Half-an-hour later, one of the murderers, Satya Narayan
Singh, was shot dead by CPI(ML) supporters.
2 November (Bartiyar, Sandesh): A CPI(ML) cadre of Aahpura village
in Sandesh block, had gone to Bartiyar village to investigate the cross-
fi ring that had been going on in that village between members of the
CPI(ML) and the Ranbeer Sena. He was killed by Ranbeer Sena members on the way.
12 November (Bichiaav village, Sandesh): One Ramji Kahar, aged 12
years, was found murdered.
1996
24 January (Ekwari, Sahar): Ram Lal Ram, father of a CPI(ML) cadre,
was sleeping with a few others in his dalan (outhouse) when he was
attacked by a group. He was killed immediately while his eight-yearold grandson who was cuddled in his lap sustained serious injuries.
7 February (Chandi village, Charpokhari): Gorakh Ram, Raghunath
Ram, Prahlad Ram and Kashi Kahar worked as halwahas (ploughmen
hired for a year). That night they were guarding the rice crop of their
malik’s fi elds which had just been harvested when an armed group attacked them and shot them dead.
22 February (Baruhi village, Sahar): Butan Sav had made an advance
payment to a Bhumihar for some rice as is customary in the villages.
When he went to collect it, he was shot at by a bhumihar supporter and
died immediately.
22 February (Kosdihra village, Sandesh): Gudri Yadav was found murdered.
7 March (Kaup village, Charpokhari): Munidra Sav and Chandradeep Sav
were killed by three goondas known to be members of Ranbeer Sena.
9 March (Patalpura village, Sahar): Except for one Bhumihar house
there are 60-70 houses of dalits and backward castes in this village.
Some Ranbeer Sena men from other villages are reported to have taken
shelter here and attacked the dalit tola in the evening when the residents were listening to the radio news. Three dalits, Tapeshwar Ram,
Budhan Ram and Kaushal Kumar were killed. According to CPI(ML)
sources, this attack was meant to dissuade the people from participating in the Adhikar rally which was to be held in Delhi on 11 March.
Members and supporters of the CPI(ML) were scheduled to leave the
next day.
17 March (Ekwari, Sahar): Rampujan Mistri was found murdered.
22 April (Nannor village, Sahar): There were two barats (marriage processions) in the village that day. The marriage party as well as some
local people, especially children, were watching a video fi lm when suddenly at 1 am an armed group attacked them killing four immediately
(Khurshid Miyan, Munna Miyan, Kallu Miyan, Aissammudin Miyan)
and injuring 13 others. One other person died in the hospital.
24 April (Dhanchua village, Sahar): Gyanchand Bhagat of ganeri caste
of this village was found murdered in the fi elds between the two villages of Chakk and Barki Kharaon where he had taken some buffaloes
out to graze at two in the afternoon. The two murderers were identi-
fi ed as Jitendra Oza, a brahmin youth of Ujwallia tola, and Ajay Singh, a
Rajput of Barki Kharaon village. No arrests were made after the event.
25 April (Barki Kharaon village, Sahar): Sultan Miyan, a youth in his
early 20s was shot at by some Rajput members of the Ranbeer Sena early
in the morning when he was going to the local shop to buy some soap.
5 May (Nadhi village, Sahar): Nithali Miyan and Ramjan Miyan were
killed by the Ranbeer Sena members of this village. Either in reaction
or as a pre-planned action, armed CPI(ML) cadres attacked the Bhumihar tola in three different locations and killed eight Bhumihars, allegedly members of Ranbeer Sena who were said to have been involved in
the Nannor massacre

11 May (near Barki Kharaon): One Rajeshwar Lal of Bhakura village
(Tarari block) used to go from village to village to sell cloth. He was
found murdered near Barki Kharaon.
19 May (Nadhi, Sahar): A dalit couple, Sitaram and Chintamanidevi,
were attacked in their house by armed men who fi rst ordered them in
a position of sexual intercourse and then shot the man in the anus and
the woman in her vagina. Another woman, Chanodevi of the same tola
was also killed.
20 May (Dhanchua, Sahar): Tapeshwar Rai, a CPI(ML) supporter of
Bhumihar caste, was killed in the morning when he was returning after easing himself, by other Bhumihars of the same village. He had
been under constant pressure for some time to join the Ranbeer Sena
or support it actively by giving donations. But Tapeshwar Rai had refused to comply. He is also known to have spoken out clearly against
Ranbeer Sena on a few occasions.
20 May (Belaur, Udwantnagar): At 10 in the night, 25-year-old Sunil Sav
was returning home from his shop when he was shot at and killed. He
was not a supporter of CPI(ML), but seems to have been killed because of
his caste which in this village is generally supportive of CPI(ML).
25 May (Morath village, Udwantnagar): On this day three Musahars of
the same family were gunned down by Ajay Singh and Bhim Singh of
this village. Rajputs are the dominant upper caste in the Musahar village. Two months earlier, some houses were being constructed under
the Indira Awaas scheme in the Musahar tola for which money had
been given directly to the Musahars. Ajay Singh had forcibly taken one
thousand rupees each from 27 Musahars. The Musahars lodged a case
against him. When Ajay Singh got to hear about the case he tried to
pressurise them to withdraw the case and work out a compromise, but
the Musahars did not agree. Unable to get them to agree to his plan, in
his anger, he shot dead Lal Mohar Musahar and his two-year-old
grandson Sudhir as well as his relative, Mita Musahar.
8 June (near Barki Kharaon): Nandu Chaudhury of Lodipur village
was shot dead.
11 July (Bathani tola, Barki Kharaon, Sahar): 19 dalit women and children were killed in broad daylight. Two of the injured succumbed to
their injuries, bringing the toll of the massacre to 21.
As we can see, this period from August 1994 to June 1996
included fi ve major massacres – Sarathua (July 1995) was the
fi rst massacre in the Ranbeer Sena build-up, followed by Noorpur (August 1995), Chandi (February 1996), Nannor (April
1996) and Nadhi (May 1996), besides scores of murders. In this
volatile state of almost daily violence, most of those who lost
their lives were ordinary villagers. The fact that one was a dalit
or of a backward caste was enough reason for him or her to be
seen as a member or supporter of the CPI(ML). During this period, the tension in the area was palpable and a general atmosphere of fear, suspicion, insecurity and uncertainty prevailed.
6 The Verdict14
Even in a generous mood, it would be diffi cult not to fi nd the
high court judgment (henceforth HC-J) on the Bathani Tola case
as anything but unconscionable. What the verdict does is to prepare the ground for the acquittal of the 23 found guilty by the
sessions [lower] court (henceforth LC-J). It uses old tactics:
overdrawing upon the weaknesses of the prosecution and discrepancies in witness accounts to discredit the investigation and
garnered evidence as unreliable. Having effectively done away
with the witnesses, it invokes case law to justify its decision.
The high court judgment reveals a clear leaning in the direction of the accused. The closing observations of the judgment
are an example of the predilection that marks the treatment of
the case:

…the investigation was not fair in respect of the persons who perpetuated
this ghastly crime . …[it] was directed in a particular direction far from
truth and not above suspicion. Truth was deliberately suppressed …only
to project an involvement of the accused persons, examined witnesses
who were totally unreliable. Unfortunately, in this exercise, who actually perpetuated the crime, got away with it. ….. (emphasis added;
HC-J: 56).
On closer examination of the two judgments, it is clearly the
HC-J that is guilty of the bias it attributes to the LC-J. Some of
the main indications of this bias are as follows.
Prosecution and Investigation
The independence of the investigating agency is crucial to the
affi rmation of truth in any crime. In the Indian judicial process, however, the state has a monopoly over prosecution in
criminal proceedings. In cases where the state is implicated
the limitations of this arrangement have become apparent
time and again because even though the prosecution is not a
spokesperson for the state, its appointment by it, in effect,
o ften renders them to become dummies of the state. In the
Bathani Tola case, the state is implicated on two counts: one,
because there were three police outposts within a distance of
1.5 km of the carnage site that included 30 police personnel
who did not intervene even though the carnage continued for
a few hours in daylight; second, as members of the Ranbeer
Sena, the accused enjoyed the patronage that the Sena did – of
powerful personalities who were part of or close to the state;
there has been therefore an implicit interest in protecting the
perpetrators in order to protect those who are part of the “long
arm” of the crime. Affi rmation of truth by a compromised
prosecution, under such circumstances, is a challenge.
As we can see from the basic facts of the case provided in
Table 1 (p 51), its most prominent drawback is the inordinate
delay in proceedings. Since the case had received much media
attention at the time, some action by the offi cial machinery
was taken immediately: the offi cer in-charge of the police outpost of Barki Kharaon (Defence Witness 1) was suspended and
a large number of the alleged accused were arrested soon after
the crime. However, the police took almost two years to complete its investigations and submit the charge sheet. A long delay
followed once the case was admitted in the sessions court. As
the HC-J notes somewhat acerbically, “Prosecution…[took]
virtually nine years to examine 13 witnesses.”(HC-J: 22)
Another lapse worth noting is that notwithstanding directions from the court, the Test Identifi cation Parade (TIP) of
those arrested was not organised; while the investigation of-
fi cer (IO) maintained that the people were not ready for the
TIP, the prosecution witnesses said that they were never called
(HC-J: 9). They were fi nally asked to identify the accused a
decade after the occurrence when they were examined in
court. Not surprisingly, many of the accused remained unidentifi ed. Statements of witnesses too, when verifi ed in court after
a decade or so, registered discrepancies that had naturally
crept in resulting in weakening their testimonies. Two witnesses and two accused also died in the intervening years.
Despite structural drawbacks, foot dragging by the prosecution, and the chronic tardiness of the judicial process there

was still something to go ahead with. The prosecution had an
FIR based on a statement made by Kishun Choudhury, who lost
his wife and two daughters that day. It had 13 witness statements, amongst whom were eyewitness accounts of Radhika,
a survivor of a bullet injury, as well as of Paltan Ram who had
witnessed the killing of his daughter Phool Kumari and Ramratia Devi, wife of Lalmuni Gorawat. Both Radhika and Paltan
Ram had named the accused in their statements, held their
ground during cross-examination, as well as identifi ed them
during the identifi cation parade in court.
The statement of another important witness, Naimuddin,
was deemed inadmissible by the HC-J due to alleged discrepancies in successive versions. Immediately after the carnage,
Naimuddin, who had lost fi ve family members and whose sixyear-old son lay battling for life, was in no condition to give a
statement. Later, he gave two oral statements and a written
one. Some additions were made to the fi rst oral statement and
this made his testimony suspect in the eyes of the high court
judges. While the LC-J admitted his statement, the HC-J
deemed it unreliable.
The Defence Case
The defence case rests on claiming false implication on three
counts: one, that even though the Sahar police station was informed by the police personnel of the Barki Kharaon picket in
writing late afternoon on the day of the carnage, on the basis
of which a wireless message was transmitted to concerned
o ffi cials in the district and many of them arrived on the scene,
and although statements of eight persons were taken in the
following hours, these were not admitted as fardbayan (information received by an individual); the fardbayan that was
made the basis of the FIR was recorded in the early hours the
following morning, 12 hours later, having “thoughtfully
planned the accusation”. The “authenticity, correctness and reliability” of the FIR thus stood challenged (HC-J, pp 9-10). Second, the accused were arrested “like sitting ducks” soon after
from the village and another location. Third, they were produced for remand in the chief judicial magistrate’s court after
a delay of two days, and despite directions of the court, TIP
was not arranged. Due to these lapses, the defence has maintained “false implication”. However, while the fi rst two reasons could possibly lead one to the conclusion they reached, it
is not clear how it follows from the third: if indeed the police,
in connivance with the informant and relatives of the
d eceased, were keen to implicate the alleged accused falsely,
would they not have taken the further step of clinching the
matter through the TIP?
Doubts and Discrepancies
Those familiar with criminal proceedings know that legal professionals are not above misusing the largesse of the guiding
principle that “charges against the accused should be proved
beyond all reasonable doubt”. A common tactic that is deployed is to ask irrelevant questions during cross-examination.
Emergent discrepancies on unimportant points are then used
in casting a doubtful shadow on the veracity of pertinent

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Comment (1)

  1. Navin

    There is no country called India. Its all an illusion. There is no justice in this country. its as simple as that.

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