Outlawed Ranvir Sena men were allegedly involved in the killing 16 years ago
- By Lata Rani, Correspondent
Patna: Villagers in Bihar are shocked a day after a local court acquitted all 24 accused people in the 1999 massacre of 23 Dalit villagers after 16 years of trial. Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords, was involved in the killing of poor villagers.
The additional district and sessions judge Raghvendra Kumar Singh acquitted all the 24 accused persons in the massacre citing “lack of evidence”.
The massacre took place 16 years ago when around 100 armed Ranvir Sena activists raided a dalit hamlet at Shankar Bigha village in central Bihar’s Jehanabad district on the night of January 25 — on the eve of Republic Day — and gunned down at least 23 villagers in cold blood while they were asleep in their mud-built houses and huts. The marauders had also set afire their houses before fleeing the scene. Of the dead, five were women and seven children — the youngest being six months old.
The incident had drawn widespread condemnation from all sections after which the then governor Sunder Singh Bhnadari had recommended President’s rule in Bihar although it did not last long.
Reports said the accused in the case walked free as all the 49 witnesses produced in the court turned hostile during the trial. All of them reportedly said they did not identify the accused due to dense fog at the time of attack and also they had their faces covered.
“There is no one to give justice to us, sir. We lost our world 16 years back and now all our hopes stand dashed after the court verdict. This is the way a poor [person] is treated here,” Etwaria Devi who lost her husband and son in the attack told the media on Wednesday.
Rajmani Devi was even more shocked. “All these years, I had kept waiting for justice hoping the accused persons will be served harsh punishment; instead they have been acquitted. I am totally hopeless now,” said Rajmani Devi who lost her husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law in the incident.
This is the fifth time in quick succession that the court has acquitted the accused persons in the massacres of Dalit villagers. In all the massacres, the outlawed Ranvir Sena men were allegedly involved.
Earlier in October 2013, the Patna High Court had acquitted all the 26 accused persons in the 1998 killing of 58 Dalits at Laxmanpur-Bathe village in Jehanabad district. Three months before in July the same year, the Patna High Court acquitted nine of the total 10 accused in the killing of 32 Dalit villagers at Miyanpur village in Auranagabad district in the year 2000.
Again in March the same year, the Patna High Court acquitted all the 11 accused in the 1998 killing of another 10 Dalit villagers at Nagari village in Bhojopur district. Same happened with all the 23 accused persons of Bathani Tola massacre who were acquitted by the Patna High Court for lack of evidence in April 2012. A total of 21 Dalit villagers had been killed in the Bathani Tola massacre which had taken place in July 1996 in Bhojpur district.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxists-Leninists) (CPI-ML) has given a call for shutdown on Friday January 16 to protest the acquittal of all the accused persons in the Shankar Bigha massacre.
“It’s a massacre of justice,” said Jehanabad district secretary of CPI-ML Comrade Mahanand. “It is a fact that 23 Dalits were killed in the massacre by the Ranvir Sena men. The court should now say who then killed the poor if all the accused persons are innocent?” he asked.