‘No Results Found’ on Searching for Laxmanpur Bathe in Times Now on the night of Oct 12-13, 2013
In a country where the bloodthirsty rhetoric of ‘hang them, shoot them’, an ‘eye for an eye’ and ‘their heads for our heads’ is heard so regularly, and so loudly on prime time television, we were greeted by an odd and chilling silence in the course of this week. It wasn’t for a lack of noise, vendetta laced sound-bytes, storms in tea-cups, or of talking heads.
While every channel debated (at inordinate length) the consequences of the banal inevitability of a sportsman retiring from his game while the going was good, or continued to compare ‘Pappu’ and ‘Feku, a striking piece of news virtually failed to ‘break’ into our televised ‘national’ consciousness.
We heard from fasting politicians, approaching cyclones, (once more) about the mortal remains of Captain Saurabh Kalia, the shenanigans of Asaram Bapu’s son, about whether or not Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had set up a trap for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and most importantly, again and again, about the impending retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, who was also declared to be ‘God’.
On the 9th of October, two days before the day that Sachin Tendulkar retired from test Cricket (since that is how this country chooses to remember history, we might as well call days before October 11, 2013 as BGR – or ‘Before God Retired’) the honorable Patna High Court acquitted twenty six men belonging to the Ranveer Sena, an upper caste militia accused of butchering fifty eight dalit men, women and children in the course of what came to be known as the ‘Laxmanpur-Bathe‘ massacre in Bihar’s Arwal district in 1997. The youngest of those killed had been a one year old child.
The Hindu in its report mentions that the then president of India, K.R. Narayanan, had called the Laxmanpur Bathe Massacre a ‘national shame’. But ever since the 9th of October, the verdict itself seems to have rattled no significant nation wide television consciences.
Newspaper correspondents and some news blog writers have been somewhat more alert, and at least one major television channel – NDTV, to my knowledge, has carried an ‘objective’ report of the acquittal.
However, although there were demonstrations in Patna, and even in Delhi – outside BIhar Bhavan in Chanakyapuri people stood in protest, signifying, yet again, that young people in Delhi do come out on to the streets when people in remote corners of the countryside feel that they have been denied justice, not a single television channel, thought it fit to report them.
(Some newspapers, such as the Times of India, did report the Patna demonstration, and theHindu carried a photograph of a demonstration in Delhi nested within a report of the Aam Admi Party’s criticism of the Patna High Court Verdict)
Only three political parties – CPI(ML-Liberation), CPI(M) and Aam Aadmi Party have formally expressed criticism of the Patna High Court verdict. The news reportage of their criticism has been muted at best. Sharad Yadav, president of the JD(U), the party which rules Bihar, has been reported in the Business Standard as saying (characteristically) that the verdict called for higher reservations for lower castes in the Judiciary. He thought the verdict was ‘painful’. Which is somewhat surprising, since the government led by his party, under Nitish Kumar, did not choose to pursue the course that a robust prosecution would have. The Bihar Government has reportedly stated that it will contest the Patna High Court’s verdict. But given the way it has handled the prosecution so far, this contest is not likely to be more than a half-hearted formality.
It may be relevant to recall that Nitish Kumar ‘s government in Bihar (JD-U, at that time in coalition with the BJP) disbanded (in April 2006) the Justice Amir Das Commission of Enquiry set up to look into the links and the patronage that the Ranveer Sena militia had within the political parties in Bihar within six months of taking power in November 2005. This is perhaps one executive order that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav would have been in agreement on, because the parties they led would both stand to lose were the Amir Das Commission’s findings on the links between the Ranveer Sena and political parties in Bihar to ever be made formally public. The Lalu Yadav-Rabri Devi regime, though it set up the Amir Das Commission under intense public pressure, was not averse to its findings being consigned to oblivion.
The links between Ranveer Sena thugs and politicians that the Amir Das Commissioninvestigated cut across party lines, and included patronage networks deep within the BJP, the RJD, JD(U) and the Congress. It is unlikely, given the JD(U)’s known links to the Ranveer Sena, that it will pursue the Laxmanpur Bathe case with any seriousness.
Piyush Pushpak and Prabhakar Kumar, in their story on CNN IBN (see link above) had listed the politicians that were to be named by the Justice Amir Das Committee Report. This list is a veritable ‘who’s-who’ of Bihar politics, and even includes influential outsiders like Murli Manohar Joshi, the national level BJP leader from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. This story, based on the access that CNN-IBN had to the unpublished Amir Das Commission Report is worth quoting in some detail to get a sense of the Ranveer Sena’s reach in Bihar politics.
“…There’s Sushil Modi , Kanti Singh, Akhileshwar Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, and CP Thakur, among others,” Lala Ramchandra Prasad Verma, Personal Assistant to Chairman of Aamir Das Commission says.
(Sushil) Modi ((Bihar state BJP chief and erstwhile coalition partner of Nitish Kumar) has been charged with having a nexus with the Ranvir Sena and seeking help from the outfit during elections. Murli Manohar Joshi, has been charged with threatening the officer-in-charge of Paliganj Police station against taking action in the Haibaspur massacre.
Another BJP bigwig, C P Thakur, has been named for attending meetings of the outfit in 1997 ahead of the Haibaspur massacre and being a close aide of Ranveer Sena’s supremo Brahmeshwar Mukhia.
Akhilesh Singh; Union Minister of State, RJD has been charged with seeking help from the banned outfit during elections and funding Sena’s activities; Kanti Singh, Minister of State, and a close associate of former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav has been charged with seeking help from Sunil Pandey, a prominent Sena leader, during 1996 Parliamentary elections.
Others named in the report are senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari, former president of the Bihar Congress Committee Ram Jatan Sinha, Nand Kishore Yadav, a minister with the Nitish government, Arun Kumar, Ex MP, JD(U) Mundrika Singh Yadav, Former RJD minister Raghunath Jha, Former president of Samta Party, Narendra Pandey alias Sunil Pandey, Nitish Kumar loyalist and JD(U) MLA Krishna Sardar, former MLA Akhlaque Ahmed, former MLA Jagdish Sharma, former MPs, late Chandradev Prasad Verma and late Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav…”
‘Caste Army Has Politician Friends’ by Piyush Pushpak and Prabhakar Kumar, CNN-IBN, April 29, 2006