PUCL Bulletin, 2001

Bihar PUCL:

Police Atrocity Against Women of Senari, Jehanabad on 27.7.2000

Both print and electronic media reported that the police had brutally assaulted and humiliated the women of the village Senari, Jehanabad, who had been severely traumatized last year (March 1999) when the MCC attacked the village and killed 34 men by savagely slitting their throats. The present incident has outraged t6he feeling of all right thinking people of the State. The Patna High Court taking suo motu notice of the incident has been ordered the district judge of Jehanabad to enquire and submit his report by a specified date. Many also approached the PUCL, including its members to make an enquiry at the earliest. A decision was taken to form a committee consisting of Dr. Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice President, Prof. Vinay K. Kantha, State Vice President, Sister Sudha Vergese, State Vice President, Shri Kishori Das, State General Secretary and Dr. B.D. Prasad, Member. The committee was asked to submit the report at the earliest.

The members of the committee visited Jehanabad on 31.07.2000, as all the injured were undergoing treatment at Jehanabad Sadar Hospital. Besides, a large number of other women had also moved to Jehanabad out of fear. Men of the village had already moved out for fear of the police. In view of this, it was not considered necessary to visit Senari.

The committee met a large number of the victims at the hospital. Just to name a few, they spoke to Manju Devi, Jyoti Devi, Sheela Devi, Dharamsheela Devi, Ram Keshwar Devi, Krishna Mani Devi, Brahma Devi, Balkeshwar Devi, Dev Mani Devi, Anju Devi, Chintamani Devi, Indumati Sharma, Nagendra Kumar (54), Akhilesh Sharma (45), Gopal Sharma and Parmanand Sharma.

They also met the Civil Surgeon Dr. Rajdhari Ranjan, who gave the list of the women and men admitted to the hospital. The F.I.R of the police on the incident was also obtained for their version, as the policemen involved were not easily accessible in view of the enquiry ordered by the High Court.

Sister Sudha Vergese saw for herself the injuries on the body of some of the victims. The following are some of the injuries:

1. Manju Devi - marks of beating on the buttock, left thigh, right shoulder and abdomen. Beaten with the butt of the gun.
2. Jyoti Devi (17) - Her husband was killed in 1999 massacre. She has injury in the abdomen, which is causing bleeding.
3. Sheela Devi - Injury in the ear due to being hit with the butt of the gun.
4. Dharamshila Devi - Lost her husband in the massacre. Injury on the side.
5. Lal Keshwar Devi - Caned on the arms.
6. Krishna Mani - Foot deliberately crushed by a policeman with his boot.
7. Chintamani Devi - Injury on the leg by beating with a cane.

The following were admitted to the hospital: Brahma Devi (50), Girja Devi (50), Ramjani Devi (65), Chitra Devi (35) Pramila Devi, Jagmani Devi (30), Lal Keshar Devi (55), Neelam Devi (35), Kalawati Devi (60) Saphalata Kumari (18), Suman Kumari (16), Ritu Devi (25), Manju (9), Sharda Devi (60), Manju Kumari, Shakuntala Devi (50), Prince Kumar (6), Manorama (70), Radhaa (60), Veena Kumari, Anandi Devi (60), Nirmala Devi (35), Vijay Laxman (60) Gayatri Devi (30), Mithilesh Devi, Kaushalya Devi, Surjamani Devi (60), Balkeshar Devi (62), Chandra Mani Devi (60), Dev Mani (50), Shraddha Devi (10), Chinta Devi (45), Mithilesh Devi (45) Shanti Devi (40) Pratima Kumari (16) Suresh Sharma (70), Awadhesh Sharma (60). Of these, there was one child, two men and the rest women.

2. The Background: In March 1999, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), attacked the village and brutally butchered 34 men by slitting their throats in relation for the massacre of Dalits by the Ranveer Sena. Since the Ranveer Sena is believed to be an armed group of Bhumihars, the Bhumihars of Senari were targeted, and a warning was also issued by the MCC that so long as the blood of the poor would continue to be shed, the repetition of carnages, as perpetrated by them at different places including Senari, would continue. Recently, on June 16, 2000, the Ranveer Sena attacked neighbouring village Mianpur (situated at a distance of 3 to 4 kilometers from Senari) inhabited by different castes and brutally killed 35 persons from the Yadav community. Targeting of this village has been attributed to the perceived involvement of some persons of that village in the Senari massacre as also killing of Bhumihars at Apsarh in Nawada district on 11th June 2000. (The PUCL enquiry conducted in the Senari massacre did not come across any conclusive evidence of the involvement of some people of Mianpur).

According to the villagers a State Minister having criminal backgrounds belonging to Yadav community had a hand in the killing at Apsarh. Hence the killing at Mianpur is believed to be an act of reprisal by the Ranveer Sena.

The inhabitants of Minapur have named a few persons of Senari in their FIR following the massacre of 15 June 2000. The police had gone to Senari to arrest some of the accused who were named in the FIR ands some others, whose names figured in course of the investigation 9this si the claim of the police). According to the police, the incident of 27 July 2000 at Senari took place in course of their raid to arrest the people involved in the Mianpur massacre.

3. The version of the police: An FIR has been filed in Karpi P.S. Case No. 63/2000 dated 28.07.2000 under section 47/128/323/325/337/338/353/307/3321/333 of the IPC. The charges including rioting, rioting armed with deadly weapons, causing hurt to deter public servant from doing his duty, causing grievous hurt for the same purpose, causing hurt endangering life or personnel safety of others, causing grievous hurt for the same purpose assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty and attempt to murder.

According to the FIR submitted by LS Kuntia, SI of PS Karpi, he proceeded to Senari to arrest some accused of the Minapur massacre (Uphar Thana case No. 23/2000). He collected a large force of D.A. Police CRPF Policemen from Kurtha, Khatangi, BMP Personnel some Mahila Police etc. He was led by Deputy Superintendent of police, Kurtha Sanjay Ranjan Singh and accompanied by several other officers. He reached Senari at 15 0' clock to conduct a raid for apprehending some persons (named in the FIR) accused in the Mianpur case. The raiding party also included some members of a Commando force. When the police reached the village, the accused who were at home tried to flee, but when the police advanced to apprehend them 60-70 women and 15-20 men who carried weapons and brickbats, stones and bamboo pieces attacked them from the roofs of the houses and the lanes. While doing so, they were raising slogans like 'Ranveer Sena; Police Prashaashan Wapas Jaao (police go back) and 'Police Prashaashan Murdaabaad'. "We repeatedly asked them politely not to indulge in such conduct". (Hamlogon ne Namratapoorvak Unlogon Se Aisi Harkat Karne Se baar baar Mahnaa Kiyaa"). Still their attack continued. Due to their attack one CRPF Jawan and one member of the commando squad became senseless and fell down. The police tried to lift them, and asked them (the women) to remain peaceful, but the intensity of the attack increased. The police then sent to women constables to pacify them, but they threw them down and beat them and began to throttle them. They also sat on their chest. When the police tried to save the police women, the women of the village tried to snatch the arms from the policemen. The women began to hue brickbats on the police party from the top of the houses. This resulted in 21 police officers and men being wounded. The wounded included the DSP six S. Is two Hawaldar, Six commandoes. One CRPF Jawan, two women police, a women chowkidar and four other policemen (the wounded have been named in the FIR). The women and girls were hurling brickbats and bamboo pieces, which caused injuries to the other violent women from the village that were on the ground. Due to being hurt and after making sure that the accused had fled from their houses, the women also withdrew within their walls raising the slogan 'Ranvir Sena Zindaabaad' Senari Kaa Badlaa Mianpur mein Le Liyaa' 'Police Murdaabaad' It is clear from this that all the women, men and girls are active members of the banned Ranveer Sena. It is possible that in course have feeling some women Sharma and Braj Mohan Sharma (who were part of the mob).

Perusal of the FIR raises some questions, as recorded below:

1. Is it credible that a police party consisting of a DSP 10 S. Is, men from the CRPF, BMP and commando force in all numbering about hundred could be prevented from effecting the arrest by stone pelting women of the village?
2. Is it credible that the women attacked and injured 21 policemen including the DSP, six SIs, and five commandos who were fully armed? And, the police did not use any force to stop them and only asked them to desist from violence?
3. Is it credible that the accused could really escape from the village in broad day light despite so much of police force mobilised to arrest them…?
4. Is it credible that the brickbats and bamboo pieces hurled by the women from the roof of their houses injured all the women, but none received injuries on the head?
5. Does the place and nature of the injuries on the body of the injured women (as seen by the committee also), make version of the police convincing that they were caused by the objects thrown from above (i.e. the roof of the houses)?
6. Is it believable that the women of the village would confirm the allegation that the accused from Senari were really members of the Ranveer Sena and were actually involved in the carnage at Mianpur by raising slogans like 'Ranvir Sena Zindaabaad' and 'Senari kaa Badlaa Mianpur Mein Le Liyaa?

The version of the inhabitants of Senari: Smt. Brahma Devi said, that they were sitting near the Mandir when the police arrived. They searched a few houses, but did not find the men they were looking for. When they failed to find anyone of them in the houses, they arrested Ravindra Sharma and Braj Mohan Sharma from the paddy field where they were working. Some women protested and told the police not to take them away, as they were innocent persons. The women wanted to save them. This infuriated the police and they began to chase and beat the women. The police climbed on the roof of the houses and began to beat the women. Manju Devi stated that she was at home, when ten to twelve policemen came down from the roof of her house, they began to beat her. She sustained injuries on her back, hip, left thigh, right shoulder and abdomen. When her mother tried to save her, she was also beaten. They also beat her sister. The police were hurling unmentionable filthy abuses at them, and saying that they would fire into the private parts of the women.

Sheela Devi stated that the police hit her in the ear with (the butt of) the gun. They snatched her earring and a chain. They also threw her son on the ground.

Mithilesh Devi stated that the police broke open her door when she did not open it. She was abused in an unmentionable language.

Anju Devi (17) stated that they beat her, and snatched her chain. The one policeman snatched her orhani wound it around his head and said, 'ham tirangaa uraayenge'.

Nagendra Kumar (54) stated that he saw the police arrive at about 2 pm. They surrounded the village, and then divided themselves into groups of 8-10 and entered the village from different directions. The policemen began to break open the house of Ramashish Singh. When his daughter in law who was outside, protested they beat her. Then they climbed the roof of the house. The police beat all women they came across. They also beat his wife Chandra Mani Devi. They saw some old men, but did not do anything to them.

Akhilesh Sharma (45) stated that he had not been keeping well for quit some time and was undergoing treatment (he showed us several reports and prescription). He was at home getting his legs massaged by his wife when the police jumped into his courtyard from his roof. He told them that he was ill, but they beat him. He had an injury on his wrist. When his wife wanted to protect him, they hit her on the buttocks. The women of the village had gone to their 'chhat' (roof) out of fear, but were followed by the police and beaten.

He explained to the committee that most of the houses had marai on the roof. It is used for observing the movement of attackers or any outsider because they were afraid of the 'extremist' as well as the police. People also slept in them, as it was safe.

Parmanand Sharma (52) a private teacher stated that he saw a large number of policemen, going to the village. He went to the roof of the house to watch them. The police went to the house of Sheo Bachan Sharma and climbed to the Chhat (roof) where the women of the family were present. The police beat Manju Kumai and her mother. They also beat his daughter Saphalta Kumari. They snatched the Dupatta' of two girls. They began their taandav dance on the roof of most of the houses. The girl whose orhani was snatched, pelted stones to save her honour.

Gopal Sharma said that the police beat his mother Anandi Devi.

Apart from the personnel experience of the atrocity, the villagers articulated the following common perception.

1. That his government is inimical to them on account of their caste.
2. That the attack was inspired by the high ups for the same reason.
3. That the policemen who participated in the raid were chosen from the s
Castes perceived by them to be hostile to them.

Finding of the Committee: The two versions are so contradictory and mutually exclusive that only one of them can be true. According to the FIR of the police, the police did not use ant force against the women who continued to attack them with brick bat and pieces of bamboo. The injuries on the bodies of women were caused by the women of the village who were attacking the police from the roof their houses, and since many of the women were also on the ground they also got hit. The FIR also mentions that possibly (sambhavtah) some women got injured in course of fleeing. The villagers, on the other hand, allege that the police entered the houses, abused the women and hit them with the cane or the gun that they were carrying.

The committee is of the opinion that the version if the police totally false. The police did beat the women with blunt weapons. The appearance of the injuries and the parts of the bodies on which they are found, clearly show that they could not have been made by brickbats etc. thrown from above. It is also unbelievable that about hundred policemen consisting of a DSP ten S. Is members of the commando force and CRPF, continued to be attacked by 60-70 women, but chose not to use nay force to stop them from alleged violence and preferred to be wounded in the attack, which resulted in 21 police personnel including the DSP, six SIs six members of the commando force being injured. It is also unbelievable that the women of the3 village confirmed the involvement of their men in the carnage at Mianpur by raising slogans like 'Ranveer Sena zindaabaad' 'Senari kaa badlaa Mianpur mein le liyaa'. The FIR mentions that there were 15-20 men also with the mob of women, but does not say one word about their activity during the whole episode. Had they assumed the role of mute spectators who watched the scene in amused silence? Since the story is a pure concoction, such contradictions are bound to appear.

The Committee is of the opinion that the police had received information from some source that sine of the Mianpur carnage were present at Senari on that day. In order to arrest them, they made a very elaborate arrangement and raided the village, but found to their chagrin that none of the accused was present. Then they arrested two men who were not accused in the Mianpur case. This infuriated the villagers. Since mostly women and old man stay at the village. The women seem to have gathered at protested against the arrest. There might have been some confrontation in which some brickbat might have been thrown. Then the police chased the women and beat them. They entered some houses and beat the unsuspecting female inmates there.

The women seemed greatly traumatized by the filthy abuses hurled at them by the police. It appears that the police intended to cause them greater humiliation than injury. This may explain hurling of filthy abuses but absence of grievous injuries inflicted on the victims. The injury on the buttock, the hip, the upper part of the thigh also seems to support their view.

Recommendation: No responsible government can afford to refrain from taking disciplinary and other appropriate action against the officers and the police involved in the incident at Senari without being guilty of abdication of responsibility. If the government accepts the finding in this report and other similar findings, it must punish the policemen specially the officers, for the atrocity committed against the women of the village. In fact, the police must also be punished for filing a fabricated FIR. However, if the government accepts the version of the police given in the FIR, it must punish the officer and men of the raiding party for cowardice, unpardonable incompetence and dereliction of duty. As an admitted in the FIR about hundred policemen consisting of a DSP, ten Sis, members of the Commando force and two platoons of the CRPF raid a village to arrest some accused, see them trying to flee in broad daylight and fail to arrest any of them. Again they (admittedly) are attacked, 21 of them get injured (which includes the DSP and ten SIs) but fail to take suitable and legitimate action to stop the violence. The police admittedly outnumber the women and yet fail to control the situation and allow 21 of their members to be injured. They admittedly fail to protect themselves even though they are armed and the women allegedly attacking them have nothing more lethal than brickbats and pieces of bamboo.

1. We recommended strict action against the policemen involved in the atrocity committed against the helpless women.

2. We also suggest that law courts should pay special attention to false FIRs. Filed by the police, which are systematically used to harass innocent citizens. Since no question is asked, no matter hoe false is the FIR it has become the biggest source persecution of the people by the police.

The courts should devise ways and means to save innocent persons from harassment and persecution by the police by using false FIRs specially because this phenomenon is rampant.

Observations and Suggestions: Casteism in general and exploitation of caste loyalty for political support in particular have dangerously divided the society in Bihar and created an explosive situation. The Bhumihars and the Yadav communities are fast moving on a collision course. If preventive measures are not taken without losing any time, the state may be engulfed, in caste riots reminiscent of the widespread communal riots of the past. Members of both the communities are already suffering from a seize mentality and villages after villages spend sleepless nights, lest they should be caught napping when attacked by the other community. The Yadavas of Rajebigha told the PUCL committee, that about 13 villages of Yadavas lived under the fear of premeditated attack by the Bhumihars. Similar psychology was perceptible among the Bhumihars of Apsarh. This mutual distrust and fear are the elements, which cause caste clashes.

The psychology of a similar kind was discernible among the people of Senari, who suffer from the feeling that the RJD government is inimical to them and has a hand in whatever has been happening to them. Such alienation of any section of society from a government is not good for the country and the society.

We, therefore, urge the RJD government, specially the Chief Minister, to take immediate credible measures to remove this feeling of distrust amongst any section of the society, which has been so alienated. She must create the confidence that her government is the government of all the people of Bihar and not only of those who supported her. In the context of Senari special care has to be taken to remove their distrust since neither she nor her colleague in the government took pains to offer them any solace when 34 of their kith and kin were butchered by the MCC in 1999.

We also urge the political parties to sit together and rise above narrow considerations of political gain to save Bihar. They must remember that politics is for the welfare of the country and the interest of the country should never be sacrificed at the altar of narrow political gains.

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