PUCL Bulletin, August 2002

Bihar PUCL Report
Killing of Rajasthani labourers at Dilian, Bhojpur

Following reports of the killing of Rajasthani labourers at Dilian, Bhojpur allegedly by the Ranveer Sena, the State PUCL constituted a fact finding team consisting of Dr. Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice President, Shri Vinay Kumar Kantha, State Vice President and Shri Kishori Das, General Secretary. The team visited Dilian, Chauri Police Station and the Office of the C.P.I. (ML) at Ara on 16.05.2002. Apart from Ravi Sanjay Toppe, S.I., posted at Chauri and people at the Office of the C.P.I. (ML) at Ara, the team spoke to a large number of inhabitants of Dilian which include the Mukhiyaa of the Panchaayat Nand Kishore Yadav, Up-Mukhiyaa Upendra Singh, Ram Deep Singh, Bans Ropan Singh, Sadhu Yadav, Krishna Yadav, Dhananjay Yadav, Vijay Yadav, Dinesh Ram (member of the Panchaayat but hailing from another village) and scores of others from the village.

It also examined the F.I.R. by Jawari Lal, one of the survivors (who hails from the village Bhingana, P.S. Looni, District Jodhpur) in the case No. 56/2002. Representation by the C.P.I. (ML) to the District Magistrate along with the photocopy of the threatening letter allegedly written by the Ranveer Sena was also examined.

Presence of Rajasthani workers: Since labourers from Bihar itself have been migrating to different parts of the country in a large number, it was something of a riddle to hear of Rajasthani labourers working here. On enquiry, it was found that they were not manual labourers but tractor drivers, who had come here with tractors to work on the site of the canal which was being dredged and by the side of which a road was being constructed. According to the villagers, the tractor drivers were not only extremely hard working, but were extremely skilled. It is for this reason that they had been hired and brought from Rajasthan. Such workers were also engaged by other contractors and were working at other sites of the Some Canal also. They appeared to enjoy goodwill and affection of the villagers.The villagers were in grief due to the tragedy

The Incident: The tractor drivers, local labourers and many villagers used to sleep fearlessly in the open near the Panchaayat Bhavan, which is situated a little far from the village. The tractor drivers along with their other Rajasthani staff (in all numbering 19, i.e., 14 tractor drivers and 5 others) used to sleep behind Panchaayat Bhavan in the field. Local labourers numbering about 40 used to sleep in the field in front of the Panchaayat Bhavan, and the villagers slept on 'chabutara' (platform) in front of the Panchaayat Bhavan. On the fateful night also they were sleeping in the same manner. At about 12 at night, the killers descended on the tractor drivers and started shooting them. Four of them reportedly died immediately while two were badly injured. They ran towards the Panchaayat Bhavan to save their lives, but died as no medical aid was available. The killers had singled the Rajasthanis out to kill. They did not attack either the villagers sleeping on the terrace or the local labourers sleeping in the field in front of the Panchaayat Bhavan.

Nand Kishore Yadav, the Mukhiyaa, claimed to have informed the police which could arrive only in the morning. The following six Rajasthani workers' were killed: 1. Ramrup Ram, 2. Durga Ram, 3. Hari Ram, 4. Sohan Ram, 5. Meena Ram, 6. Babulal Ram.

The culprits according to the F.I.R in case No 56,2002 of P.S Chauri: Jawari Lal, one the survivors has made a statement before the police. After describing the killing of his friends and how he hid himself under a tractor to escape death, he names some members of the gang which committed the heinous crime. However, he clearly states that he was told by some villager that the persons he named were part of the armed gang He names 16 persons and also states that they were members of the Ranveer Sena. The team was informed by the villagers that the activities of Ranveer Sena are guided by Awadh Bihar Pande of Amrhua, P.S Chauri. Before this incident, no threat was given on the work-site nor was any hindrance created. The victims had no knowledge if any threat was given to their contractor. Jawari Lal's FIR says that "we have come to know that a battle for supremacy between 'Maale' (i.e., C.P I (ML)) and the Ranveer Sena is going on. It is my claim that this incident was effected by the named and other unknown extremists to create terror under a conspiracy hatched by the Area Commander Awadh Bihari Pande and other active members of the Ranveer Sena."

The culprits according to the Mukhiyaa and villagers of Dilian:
Some villagers stated that the killing was done by the Ranveer Sena, but also said that they had no personal knowledge of it They according to based their view on the basis of the direction in which the killers went after committing the crime.

According to the Mukhiyaa of the Panchaayat, Nand Kishore Yadav, this incident has taken place for supremacy in contract (Thikadaari mein barchaswa ke kaaran Yeh ghatnaa ghati hai.). It does not appear to me that 'Party, etc., are involved' (Party sarty ki sambhaavanaa hamko nahin lagti hai) He explained that by 'Party Sarty'' he meant all organisations like Ranveer Sena, Maale and Sangraam Samiti, etc.

The culprits according to the C.P.I. (ML): The organisation categorically states that the killing is the handy work of the Ranveer Sena. They claim that they had been aware of the activities of the Sena and had come to know that they were holding meetings to indulge in such crime if they were not paid by the contractors (i.e., if what is popularly called Rangdaari/levy, etc., which means money paid to organised armed groups for being permitted to carry on work in their area of influence).

They showed us the photocopy of a letter allegedly written by the Ranveer Sena to the tractor drivers ordering them lo leave with their tractors as soon as possible or to face consequences. The letter was handed over to the District Magistrate of Bhojpur for appropriate action on 8th April, 2002. Again, the C.P.I. (ML) wrote to the S.P. on 25.04.2002 regarding the presence of the leaders of the Ranveer Sena in the villages of Sahar P.S. The letter specifically mentions Ekwari, Arnuhan, Chauri, and Dulamchak. It is alleged that armed groups have been moving from one village to another, and also that the chief of the Ranveer Sena, Barhineshwar Singh, had reportedly (Soochanaa milee hai) participated in the meeting at Ekwari

The Dainik Jagaran of 9th May, 2002 has reported that the District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar admitted that a delegation of the C.P.I (ML) had given him the letter of the Ranveer Sena issuing a threat to the tractor drivers, but it contained no name of any place. However, he claimed to have written the S.P. to act on it

On enquiry from the PUCL team, Deepak Kumar, the correspondent concerned of the Dainik Jagaran said that the D.M. had not contradicted the news item.
On being asked about the original letter, they (C.P.I. (ML)) said that it was given to the police by the labourers. To the question as to why the contractors did not approach the administration for the protection of the tractor drivers, they explained that the kind of people who take contracts do not usually go to the administration. They either feel strong enough to deal with the bullies themselves or pay. So, according to them, there was nothing unusual about the contractors not approaching the administration for protection.

Ravi Sanjay Toppo, SI - He is not the Investigating Officer of the case, so he does not know the details. However, he said that the investigation was in progress, but nothing definite could be said about the culprits. Some Ranveer Sena men (seven persons named in the F.I.R.) have been arrested, but they claim to be innocent. There is evidence of firing by AK-47, so the hand of the Ranveer Sena is suspected. Many 'Khokha' (cases of the bullets fired) had been found at the place of occurrence

He denied that the police had any information about a letter delivered to Durga Enterprises demanding money by Ranveer Sena. He also denied that on 28.04.2002, the Sena men beat up some labourers working for Durga Enterprises. He also denied that the police station had received any communication from the S.P. about any threat to anyone.
The Rajasthani labourers had left after this tragic incident and were not available for giving their version.

Finding: It is not easy in this case to fix responsibility for the crime. As there is none claiming to identify the culprits. The F.I.R. by Jawari Lal admittedly gives the names of several persons supplied to him by a villager, who himself has not been identified. He further repeats that they have told him that the crime has been committed by the Ranveer Sena under a conspiracy hatched by Awadh Bihari Pande and other active members of the Ranveer Sena. He is an outsider and has no personal knowledge. He relies on and repeats what he claims to have been told by some unidentified persons. Thus, the F.I.R. cannot be relied upon for identifying the culprits.

The villagers who were at the place of occurrence also did not identify the culprits though suspected that they were men of the Ranveer Sena because they fled in the direction in which the villages supporting them are situated. Besides, it was 12 O' clock at night and they were too scared to do anything but remain lying on ground to save themselves. The terror is so great that even now none goes near the Panchaayat Bhavan or ventures out after sunset. Additionally, the killing took place behind the Panchaayat Bhavan, while the villagers were sleeping on the terrace in front of the Panchaayat Bhavan from where they could not see the culprits. In view of above mentioned facts and circumstances, fixing of responsibility has to be done on the basis of inference which can be drawn from the facts and circumstances of the case.

One of the possibilities mentioned was that it was the handy work of some rival contractors. It cannot be the handiwork of a contractor who himself was engaged in similar work on another side because the killing of the Rajasthani tractor drivers was bound to drive away all Rajasthanis - including those working for him, putting his own work also in jeopardy and causing him huge financial loss. The act would be suicidal for him. The other possibility is that it was done by some contractor who had not got the work or who was otherwise interested in dealing a severe blow to the contractor at Dilian. Anyone attempting this has to be very powerful both politically and in muscle power, because it is an open secret that in Bihar all big contracts go to either criminal politicians or very powerful criminals.

No such disgruntled person was mentioned in the context of the present killing. Another thing that makes this hypothesis very far fetched and remote is the fact that it would be unnatural for the contractor who has suffered to allow the police to follow the wrong trail (in this case the Ranveer Sena) and let the real culprits go Scot free. What would be most natural for them to go the whole hog after the contractor who dealt him the severe blow? It is pertinent to note that all the Rajasthanis have left, and work on all sites there has stopped, hurting all the contractors of the area engaged in the work on the canal with Rajasthani tractors. Since none of the contractors has accused any contractor of committing the crime, the possibility of the crime being the handiwork of a disgruntled or rival contractor has to be ruled out.

The other suspect is the Ranveer Sena. A few questions have to be answered before coming to any conclusion on this score. What was its motive? Why did it not claim responsibility as it usually does, or why did it not disown it? Why did it not target the contractor instead of the poor workers?

The killing was not due to the rivalry for supremacy between the C.P.I. (ML) and the Ranveer Sena as has been insinuated in the F.I.R. for the simple reason that the victims were from outside Bihar and were not supporters of the C.P.I. (ML). The Ranveer Sena has attacked and killed the downtrodden supporters of the C.P.I. (ML) or believed to be their sympathizers. Thus rivalry as a motive rules itself out.

Various armed groups, political or otherwise, have been known to extort money from many including contractors doing business in their area of influence. The Ranveer Sena is not an exception. Therefore, the allegation that they had been demanding money from the contractors would not be out of their character. Thus the possibility that they demanded money from the contractor concerned, and on his not complying with the demand killed the workers to drive them away leading to stoppage of work and loss to the contractor. The fact that they have not claimed responsibility has a reasonable explanation. Seven persons have been arrested allegedly for being Ranveer Sena men and being involved in the killing; many more are wanted. Claiming responsibility would seriously compromise the arrested persons' position in the case and make them extremely vulnerable.

No organisation would imperil its sympathisers/workers, etc. But at the same time, it is significant that it has not owned responsibility. Would any organisation take the blame for shedding the blood of innocent persons, specially if they are from some other state (and in no way party to local political rivalry) without any rhyme or reason? It would not be natural for any organisation to accept this odium if it is innocent.

There is another question begging an answer. Why is the contractor who was asked to pay silent? The contractors are not like other businessmen, too weak to stand up to the criminals. They are powerful men in many a sense, otherwise they would not be in this business. If the Ranveer Sena men asked for money, then killed their men and disrupted their work, why have not they come forward to speak out against them?

Who targeted the tractor drivers aim in at stoppage of work causing huge loss to the contractor? After weighing the pros and cons of the case in the absence of any direct evidence, one can only say that the needle of suspicion definitely points to the Ranveer Sena. Their silence is the face of widespread allegation tantamount to acquiescence, further, deepening suspicion on it.
The letter allegedly written by the Ranveer Sena, which was submitted to the D.M. by the C.P.I. (ML) was not found at Dilian. The villagers mentioned threats to Durg Enterprises. They also mentioned that if they had any inkling of the concerned attack, they would have shifted the victims to inside the village and protected them. Thus, the killers seem to have attacked unsuspecting people.

Recommendation: The Rajasthani workers who fell a victim to Bihar's lawless life for no fault of theirs should be paid at least Rs. 2 lakh each as compensation.

Observation: There has been allegation of indifference on the part of the administration. The indifference or neglect is not specific to this case, but is a part of the overall picture. The fact is that the State has ceased to act as a deterrent against crime. No administration can provide or provides protection to every individual. It protects the life, liberty, and other interests of its citizens by instilling the fear of punishment among the law breakers by ensuring certain punishment for any crime committed.

In Bihar, it is the opposite which has been ensured. Every habitual law breaker knows that he would remain unpunished. What is most alarming is that the lawbreakers have come to rule the roost. The police are not allowed to do their job even where they want to do it. In this scenario, it is not enough to blame only the police if lawlessness in the state has to be stopped. The people and the political parties interested in saving the state have to work to remove the root cause of lawlessness in the state.

One redeeming feature, which was noticed during the course of enquiry, was a general sense of condemnation among the villagers on such a senseless act of killing. This sense of outrage seemed to cut across caste and class. -- Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice President; Vinay Kumar Kantha, State Vice President; Kishori Das, General Secretary

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