We are deeply distressed and shocked at the judgment of Patna High Court (Bihar) on 16th April 2012 acquitting the upper caste/feudal murderers of the ghastly Bhatanitola Massacre in 1996. This is not only a severe miscarriage of justice but a massacre of the very notion of justice. Thus it is akin to the judicial massacre of the poor dalits and muslims of Bathanitola. This Patna High Court judgment not only makes a mockery of the lofty slogans of the Indian ruling classes like dignity , democracy, human rights, justice right to life and dignity but also shamelessly exposes the class/caste biasness of various organs of the Indian State including the judiciary. The upper caste landlord, contractor, mafia, bureaucracy, police, and political executive nexus is quite evident.
On 11th April 1996 Ranveer Sena, the private army of the upper caste landlords cold bloodily murdered 21 people poor dalits and muslims in Bathanitola in Bhojpur distict, Bihar. 3 toddlers (one of them only 3 months old), 6 children, 11 women were cruelly butchered by the Ranvir Sena .
This barbaric massacre was done in broad daylights in the presence of a large contingent of police; this clearly indicates the nexus between police and upper caste landlords in Bihar. The day after this ghastly massacre Kisun Choudhary registered a FIR in Sahar Police Station against 33 people involved in the massacre. In 2010 the Ara Sessions Court has convicted 23 people for this massacre sentencing three to death and 20 to life imprisonment. But the Patna High Court has 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.
It is relevant that the massacre was preceded by a series of attacks and a campaign of open terror against the people of Bhathani Tola by the Ranveer Sena, which enjoyed the support of several powerful politicians and parties. In spite of repeated intimations and appeals to the district police and administration no preventive action was taken. When the blood bath played out for hours and the mob of perpetrators used swords and guns to butcher people and set fire to homes, the police remained a mute and passive spectator. This complicity of the police and administration within the perpetrators continued after the massacre, leading to the weakening of the case against the accused, as noted by the Patna High Court. Shamefully, the three police eye witnesses to the massacre deposed in court as witness for the defense.
The verdict of the Patna High Court, acquitting the butchers of Bathanitola has shaken our faith in the judiciary and blatantly exposed its class/caste prejudice in this case.
In the past, respected judges of various courts have given similar verdicts of the cases of large scale massacres. In the decades of 1980s and 1990s many dreaded private armies of the upper castes, such as Brhmarshi Sena, Satyendra Sena, Savarna Libration front, Sunlight Sena, and Ranveer Sena had committed dozens of massacres. The victims of these massacres were the poor dalits and some of the most backward sections of the society. For example, the Ranveer Sena alone killed 116 people (with a large fraction of them being women and children) in 3 massacres of Laksmanpur Bathe (1997) Shankar Bigha (1999) and Miya Pur (2000).
The nexus between upper caste landlords, police and the judiciary is evident not only in the recent acquittal of the butchers of Bathanitola but also the acquittal of dreaded upper caste gangsters in the past. Ranveer Sena’s head Bramheshwar Singh had personally led over a dozen such massacres in Bhojpur, Jahanbad, Gaya and Aurangabad districts. He even admitted to his role to the police and the media. Even then he was released from prison in July 2010. Similarly, the head of the Savarna Liberation Front Ramadhar Singh alias Diamond, was also acquitted by the court. It should be noted that Savarna Liberation Front was directly responsible for brutal killings in Sawan Bigha (Jahanabad) and Main–Barsimha (Gaya). At present, most of the leaders of these criminal gangs have either been acquitted or granted very nominal punishment by the courts.
With immense anxiety and concern we underline the oppressive class/caste nature of the Indian state and its various organs like police, bureaucracy, and judiciary. Right to life, dignity and equality have proved to be a joke since the day one these rights were proclaimed by the constitution.
For decade we have been watching with horror the anti poor, dalit, women, minority judgments of various courts in India. Some glaring example are like the Tamil Nadu High Court verdict in the Kilve mani massacre of 1969, which had found it astonishing and difficult to believe that rich men, owning vast extents of land, one of whom even possessed a car, could be guilty of burning alive 42 dalits. In the Bhawnri Devi case the learned judges of Rajasthan had said how upper caste men can rape a lower caste women like Bhawnri Devi. The Durg Sessions Court had convicted Paltan Mallah and the owner of Simplex group for the murder of Shankar Guha Niyogi but the Jabalpur High Court let them scott off. The class and caste character of the Indian Judiciary is crystal clear. On one hand while the perpetrators of Bhathanitola massacred are acquitted, on other hand the Indian State has witnessed brutal repression on the struggle poor like the Adivasi, dalits, minorities, women and oppressed nationalities. To sell of the natural resources to the national and international big business the Indian state has brutally launched Operation Green Hunt against the poorest of the poor who are struggling to save their land, forest, water, mines, dignity and livelihood.
We are watching with horror thousands of encounter deaths, torture, custodial rapes from Kashmir to North East and from Jangal Mahal to the forests of Odisha, Chhhatisgarh and Jharkhand. What happened to Soni Sori in police custody is a chilling reminder of this reality.
We condemn the blatant class and caste prejudice of the Bathanitola judgment and appeal to all the sensitive sections of the society to raise their voice against it.
STUDENTS FOR RESISTENCE- DELHI
INDIAN SOCIAL ACTION FORUM- (INSAF)
Chittaranjan Singh- National organising secretary PUCL
Arjun Prasad Singh- PDFI
Ajit Jha- Samajwadi Jan Parishad
Kiran Shaheen- Media Action Group, Delhi
Vijay Pratap- Socialist Front / Lok Rajnitik Manch
Kamayani Bali Mahabal- Lawyer, Activist Mumbai
Nayan Jyoti- Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
Sourav Banerjee- Bigul Mazdoor Dasta
Sunil Kumar- Pragatishil Mazdoor union, Delhi
P.K. Sundaram- Research Scholar JNU
Mohamed Usman- Research Scholar JNU
Anand Krisna Raj- Research Scholar JNU
Rashid Ali Independent Film Maker, Delhi
Shah Alam- Independent Film Maker, Delhi
Shahnaz Malek- Armaan Mahila Sanghathan, Ahmedabad
Asit Das- Writer Activist, Delhi
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- Anand Patwardhan’s paean to Dalits, that took 14 years to compose (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Why have we banished our own brethren? (kractivist.wordpress.com)