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Home > Human Rights > India: Joint Appeal by PUDR and Others to Punish the Culprits of Shankar (...)

India: Joint Appeal by PUDR and Others to Punish the Culprits of Shankar Bigha Massacre of Bihar

29 January 2015

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Memorandum

To,
The Resident Commissioner,
Bihar Niwas, Delhi
Subject: Joint Appeal to Punish the Culprits of Shankar Bigha Massacre of Bihar

Sir,

The recent judgment of the Additional District and Sessions Judge of Jehanabad (Bihar), given in the much reported case of Shankar Bigha Massacre, has not only depicted the travesty of justice, but also exposed the frivolity of Bihar police and its prosecution machinery. The Judge of the trial court has acquitted all the 24 accused persons, of being involved in the infamous massacre, on 13th January, 2015, citing “lack of evidence” . . .

But, look into the brief history of the case of this massacre, which will reveal the real nature of this judgment.

Ranbir Sena was formed in 1994 in Bhojpur district of Bihar, as a private army of upper caste and upper class, with a clear-cut aim of crushing the ongoing revolutionary peasant movement of Bhojpur and adjoining areas. Ranveer Sena organized more than two dozen massacres in Bhojpur, Jehanabad, Aurangabad and Gaya districts of Bihar, such as Bathani Tola, Ekawari, Laxmanpur Bathe, Nagari Bazar, Shankar Bigha, Narayanpur and Miyapur.

They butchered 23 and severely injured 14 residents of Shankar Bigha village of Jehanabad district, at the night of 25th January 1999. Five women and seven children, including a 10month-old, were among those killed. All the killed persons were from families of landless agricultural workers, belonging to the dalit and most backward communities. They were the part of a democratic peasant organization and raising their voices against atrocities and exploitations, imposed upon them by the local landowners of upper castes and state forces.

Since, the heinous massacre took place on the eve of the Republic Day, there had been much hue and cry among the political circle of Bihar and other places. Many political parties and democratic-revolutionary forces rushed to Shankar Bigha to express their solidarity to the fighting people and to share the grief of the affected families.

Since assembly elections in Bihar were due by March 2000, Bihar Chief Minister Rabari Devi and her husband Laloo Prasad Yadav also reached at the site of the carnage in Shankar Bigha village on 26 January, 1999. Rabari Devi promised to bring the guilty to book. But the villagers pointed out that the perpetrators of the Laxamanpur Bathe carnage (where 58 dalit and most backward people had been killed more than 2 years back by the same army) were yet to be arrested. The Chief Minister announced a compensation of Rs.1.4 lakhs, free rations for six months, a government job and pucca houses for the victims’ kin. She also announced that a special court would be set up to try the accused. But, the affected family members replied to the Chief Minister, "Give us guns, not compensation. We do not want your money. We want to fight with those who have been killing us and moving around freely." They were almost sure that many of the promises, given by the Chief Minister would not be fulfilled.

Many opposition parties, including CPI and CPM demanded to dismiss the Rabari govt. and impose the President Rule, immediately, The Governor of Bihar Sunder Singh Bhandari also presented to Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, a fresh case for the dismissal of the Rabari government.

After all these, the President K.R. Narayanan virtually ticked off the Bihar Government for laxity and called for "stringent and urgent action" against persons responsible for the slaughter. He also remarked: "Law-enforcing agencies have a responsibility, by timely and decisive intervention, to prevent recurrence of such acts and obvious reprisal action,"

But, all these actions and reactions went in vain. Though the FIR of this case was registered on 26th January, 1999, but the Charge Sheet filed in 2001. And all the 24 accused of this case were granted bail in 2001itself. The trial of this case was completed in about 15 years! Altogether 50 persons (49 witnesses and 1 Informant) were brought in the trial court to provide evidence against the accused of the carnage. But, in the order of acquittal, the judge cited ‘lack of evidence’, including the fact that all of the 50 witnesses ‘turned hostile’ in court. At Shankar Bigha though, it isn’t difficult to perceive why. All the 24 accused and their family members and supports exerted many kinds of pressure upon the informant and witnesses of this case. They were even threatened to kill them and their family members. This fact was brought to Police and the trial court Judge. The police emphatically refused to provide any kind of protection to them. Then, they requested the Judge: ‘Let them take us to Patna, let them give us some assurance of protection, and we will not hesitate to recognize the accused.’ But, the Judge couldn’t provide any protection and assurance to them. So, they told the trial court that they “had not seen anyone clearly that night.” Thus, this was the ‘hostility’ of the witnesses, which prompted the Judge of the Jehanabad trial court to grant acquittal to all the accused of the Shanker Bigha massacre case.

The past two years, though, have thrown up a disturbing trend of acquittals in massacres’ cases of Bihar, particularly in those where dalits were killed. Acquittals in the massacre cases of Nagari Bazar, Miyapur, Bathani Tola and Laxamanpur Bathe are the conspicuous examples. In all such cases, the Bihar government’s response has been to go in for appeals in higher courts. And the poor dalits have been bearing the brunt of this apathy. In real sense, these acquittals are nothing, but the massacres of justice.

In this unprecedented situation, we have to come to you jointly, to place the following demands for your kind and urgent consideration:

1. Form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to start fresh investigation of the case of Shankar Bigha massacre.
2. Provide proper police protection to all the witnesses of these massacre cases and provide employment to those witnesses, who want to live in cities.
3. Appoint a new Commission to investigate the nexus of Ranveer Sena and other private armies with the political parties and police personnel.
4. Make public the Preliminary Report of Amir Das Commission, which were dissolved by the Nitish govt.
5. Higher Judiciary should interface in the matter to check the travesty of justice in Bihar and provide proper justice to the affected people, so soon as possible.

WE, the undersigned:
1. All India Federation of Trade Unions (New) ………………………………….
2. Inqalabi Majdoor Kendra………………………………………………………
3. People’s Front………………………………………………………………….
4. Krantikari Yuva Sangathan…………………………………………………….
5. New Democratic Party of India………………………………………………..
6. People’s Democratic Front of India………………………………….
7. Jati Unmulan Aandolan………………………………………………
8. Pragatisheel Mahila Ekata Kendra……………………………………
9. Nowruz……………………………………………………………….

[date of diffussion: 29 January 2015]