It needs to be recalled that on July 11, 1996, 21 landless poor, belonging to Dalit and Muslim communities, were massacred in broad daylight at Bathani Tola, in Bhojpur district, by the Ranvir Sena, a private army of upper caste affluent farmers. Twenty of those killed were women, children and infants.
In a joint petition to the Chief Justice of India, they have urged him to ensure that the perpetrators of this and other massacres of the poor and oppressed in Bihar are tried and convicted.
The Ara sessions court had sometimes back convicted 23 people for this massacre in 2010, sentencing three to death and 20 to life imprisonment. But on April 16 this year, the high court overturned the conviction, and acquitted all the accused.
“The fact that, 16 years after this massacre, not a single person stands convicted for the brutal and barbaric slaughter of innocents, raises disturbing questions about whether the oppressed and the poor victims of massacres can expect justice in our courts,” the memorandum said.
“One of the survivors of the massacre, who lost six members of his family, responding to the acquittal, asked, ‘Who, then, killed 21 people that day?’ We believe that the entire country and our system of justice owes the people of Bathani Tola an answer to that question. And we write to you in the hope that the SC will correct the deep injustice to victims and survivors of Bathani Tola, and will take all possible measures to ensure that the perpetrators of this and other heinous massacres of the poor and oppressed in Bihar are tried and convicted,” the signatories said.
They further said the Ranvir Sena was banned after the Bathani Tola massacre - but in spite of the ban, it continued to operate openly, committing several more such massacres in central Bihar. The Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in December 1998, in which 61 dalit landless poor were killed, had been called a 'national shame' by the then president of India, K R Narayanan.
“The Commission of Enquiry headed by Justice Amir Das, which was set up after the Bathe massacre, to probe the political support received by the Ranvir Sena, was disbanded six years ago when the present state government came to power in Bihar. The Ranvir Sena chief, Brahmeshwar Singh, is yet to be named in the FIRs of the Bathani Tola massacre and other massacres. In fact, the police informed the Ara court in 2010 that Brahmeshwar was an ‘absconder’ when he was, at that time, a prisoner in Ara jail,” the memo said.
Prominent signatories to the memorandum include Amit Bhaduri, Anand Patwardhan, Uma Chakravorty and Kamal Mitra Chenoy. Bharati S Kumar and Daisy Narain of the Patna University and Santosh Kumar of NIT Patna are among the signatories from Patna.