Mohammad Ali


The acquittal of 23 activists of Ranvir Sena, the upper caste militia allegedly involved in the gruesome murder of 23 Dalits at Bathani Tola in Bihar, by the Patna High Court this past week puts a question mark on the commitment of the judicial system as well as the State Government for delivering justice to the underprivileged Dalits and minorities, argued activists at a convention on “Bathani Tola Acquittal: Political Complicity and Issue of Justice in Feudal and Communal Massacres” here.


A court in Bhojpur had in May 2010 convicted 23 Sena men for the ruthless murder of 23 Dalits including 11 women, six children and three infants who were less than 10 months old, on July 11, 1996, a judgment which was overturned by the Patna High Court citing “defective evidence” provided by the prosecution. The State Government has decided to go in appeal against the acquittals in the Supreme Court.


Prof. Anand Chakravarty, a former professor of Calcutta University, said that the High Court judgment acquitting all the Ranvir Sena men underlines the bias prevalent among the judges in favour of upper caste and upper class.


Bathani Tola was part of a series of massacres of Dalits and minorities committed through the 1980s and 1990s by the Sena, a powerful army of Bhumihars and Rajputs which targeted landless labourers, who had started asserting their rights against the landholding class, especially in the backdrop of Naxal movement taking root in the State.

Speakers at the convention also alleged “collusion” of successive State governments with Sena leaders as they consistently failed to bring the Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya to book.


Mukhiya was arrested in 2002 as he is wanted in 22 cases for 277 murders of Dalits, who included Musahars and Dalit Muslims but was released on bail mysteriously in July 2010. Importantly he was declared “absconder” in the Bathani Tola massacre case even when he was in Ara jail.


Social scientist Nandini Sundar pointed out that just because Kishan Choudhary, a witness in the case, approached the police 12 hours after the massacre was committed, the Patna High Court judgment declared him along with other witnesses in the case to be liars and unreliable witness. She also argued that the fact that the High Court “ignored the politico-economic context of the case” was a “mockery” of the case.


“We don’t have any alternative but to fight at every level,” added Ms. Sundar.


Prashnat Bhushan, eminent lawyer and activist, said that verdicts like the acquittals of the murders of Dalits in Bathani Tola don’t surprise him as it is the result of pro-upper class and upper caste bias prevalent in the judiciary. “What can you expect from a judiciary where corruption is rampant?” Mr. Bhushan asked.


There is no hope for the common man to get justice from the present judicial system, he added.


Kavita Krishnan of the CPI (M-L) said it is very important to remember that these Dalits were massacred because they were fighting against the injustices of the upper caste and upper class system.


A Delhi – convention on this topic held on  April 23, condemned the acquittal.

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