Bihar PUCL Report:
Killings at Rajebigha, Apsarh, and Mianpur
on June 3, 11, and 22, 2000
The current situation of Bihar is deeply disturbing. There have been frequent reports of kidnapping of doctors and rich businessmen for ransom and murder of political workers. Even innocent women and children are not spared in the massacres that are taking place with disconcerting frequency in the interior of Bihar's countryside. There is a widespread sense of insecurity among all strata of the society. Whether one is a relatively better off kisan from Bhumihar community, or a poor dalit farm labourer, or a Yadav eking out his living with difficulty, anyone could become a target for no fault of his/her. Usually there are no violent clashes even as rival armed groups are operating in different parts of the State. More often than not, it is the unarmed, and sometimes the unsuspecting, common person who is likely to be butchered in one of these massacres, where the counting of numbers is the prime consideration. Massacres are not news any longer, but the recent spate of killings pushes the situation to a further low point. Sometimes an observer from outside may have an eerie feeling that unless prevented, things may move inexorably in the direction of generalized caste clashes.
PUCL Study: It was in the above context that after the massacres at Rajebigha, Apsarh, and Mianpur, a PUCL team was constituted to visit the sites of massacres and examine the situation. The team consisted of Prof. Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice President; Prof. Vinay K. Kantha, State Vice President; and Shri Kishori Das, State General Secretary.
Earlier the PUCL has conducted enquiries into dozens of massacres in the state. The present exercise was kept a little different because it was felt that the usual task of fixing responsibility was of little significance here. Often the perpetrators were identified in terms of their caste composition, while individual responsibility, the examination of the nature and extent of the collective failure by different agencies and segments of society was considered to be of greater value because it may give some idea as to the delineation of the possible strategy/strategies for correcting or at least improving the situation.
The team was conscious of its own limitations, hence the enquiry is only a reconnaissance and suggestions only tentative, but hopefully they could provide a point of departure.
The basic issues
explored and addressed are:
Mode of study:
The usual practice of visit to the concerned places and discussion with the local people was of course the most important part of the exercise. Apart from this, some newspaper reports were also scanned. Internal discussions and experiences drawn from the past enquiries were also helpful in the preparation of this report, which admittedly is only a beginning. A wider consultation which PUCL intends to take up at once, will help further in unveiling more layers of the complex situation of to day.
of the massacres:
The team visited Mianpur in Aurangabad on 22nd June 2000. Rajebigha and Apsarh are in Nawadah district where the team went on 27th June. Some details of the villages and the massacres are given below:
i. Rajebigha, P.S. Pakari Barawan, district Nawadah: In Rajebigha the majority of the people belong to the Keori Caste. To the west of Rajebigha is the village of Madhurapur inhabited by extremely backward castes like Noniya and Beldar. To the north is the village of Devadha where the majority are Bhumihars and in the south is the village Bhagvanpur where the majority belongs to the Yadava caste.
According to the villagers, the caste wise break up of the families inhabiting Rajebigha is: Yadav 85 families, Chandravanshi 20, Nai - 1.
ii. Apsarh, P. S. Wasaliganj, district Nawadah: The Apsarh village is bordered in the east by the village Bali with majority of the population belonging to the Yadav caste. In the west is situated Bhavani Bigha with Kowri majority, in the north is located Nepura where the Bhumihars are in majority, and in the south Nir Bigha with Kurmi majority
The caste wise break up of the 500 families inhabiting village Apsarh, according to the villagers is, Bhumihar 250 families, Dhanuk 20 families, and Tiwari Mahapatra 20 families. The rest are Harijans, like Ravidas, Manjhis, Musahar, etc.
iii. Mianpur, P.S. Uphara, district Aurangabad.
Village Mianpur is surrounded in the north by the villages Hurrahi, Bakhtiarpur, Sahara picket and Senari. In the east is situated the village of Usas Deora with Rajput majority, to the west is Harigaon and in the south it is bordered by an open field of 4-6 kilometers. Mianpur is a habitation of about a hundred families of which 3 are Dusardhs, 6 Baniya, 24 Barhai, and the rest are Yadava.
There is one primary school in the village. A health centre is situated at a distance of about two kilometers at Bakhtiarpur. There are 3 graduates; 25 persons have passed the matriculation examination.
B. Basic information
(i) Rajebigha - The killings at Rajebigha took place June 3rd,2000 at 11.00 p.m.. Following persons lost their lives in the firing the: 1 Amrit Yadav; (40); 2 Kameshwar Yadav, (35), both brothers; 3 Sudo Yadav, (25); 4 Siya Devi, (45), mother; and son, 5 Pinto (5). A young boy, Kheru Yadav (12) was injured.
The PUCL team, for the purpose of enquiry, talked to Visundeo Yadav, Ravindra Kumar, S. D. Singh Chandravanshi, Dharmendra Kumar, Ganesh Kumar, Vijay Yadav, Rajendra Prasad, Devaki Nandan Singh, and Jeeval Yadav.
The incident occurred in the Khalihaan (where grain is stored), which is situated north of the village and beyond which there are no houses. According to eyewitnesses, at about 11.00 p.m. about 60 armed people appeared in the village from the north and, surrounding the sleeping villagers, opened fire at them. They then left in the direction that they had come from. The killers were from the Dhevdha village, which has a Bhumihar majority who are supporters of the Ranvir Sena. They even mentioned that the nearby villages were Bhumihar dominated. They mentioned Dhonlan, Horrahi, Khapra, Dumrawan, Kesauri and Rajebigha, where they had been exerting their influence on the villagers.
When asked about the cause for the killing, they replied that it was because they belonged to the Yadava caste.
(ii) Apsarh - The killings at Apsarh took place on June 11,2000 at 11.00 p.m. Following persons lost their lives in the firing: 1. Gita Singh, (56), son if Kailash Singh; 2. Chandrika Sharma, (49), son of Kailash, Singh (graduate); 3. Ram Dahin Singh, (24), son of Chandrika Sharma, (cultivator); 4.Girish Kumar, (4), son of Ram Dahin Singh; 5. Rama Kant Singh, (24), son of Nunu Singh, (agriculture, farming); 6.Dasarath Singh, (21), son of Arun Sharma (agriculture, farming) 7. Rajendra Singh, (50), son of Mishri Singh (agriculture, farming); 8. Satish Singh, (21), son of Rajendra Singh (runs Awasiya Vidyalaya); 9. Manoj, (18), Grandson of Babu Lal Sharma, B.A (I); 10. Kamlesh, (11), Gita Singh's relative; 11. Ram Lal, (12), Brother of Akhilesh Singh, a student, (father works in Bokaro) had come for a visit.
List of injured
1 Jitendra Kumar, (14), son of Sant Sharma Singh; 2 Sonu Kumar, (5), son of Ram Pravesh Singh, bullet wound in the head and was being treated at Tara hospital at the time of gathering information; 3 Neeraj Kumar, (3) son of Dasarath Singh.
The PUCL team talked to a number of people to gather information. Among these were.
1 Nunu Singh, a retired teacher; 2 Babu Lal Sharma; 3 Radheshyam Singh;
4 Ram Pravesh Sharma; 5 Raj Kishor Singh; 6 Ramesh Kumar; 7 Phaggu Tiwari, and others.
According to these people, all those killed and injured were sleeping on the roof of Daalaan. This Daalaan was a common place. The families of Kailash Singh, Ramavatar Singh, and Umesh Singh lived here. It was mentioned that there was no case against them.
The incident - According to the eyewitnesses, on 9th June, at 9.00 p.m., Pramod Kumar Mandal, the D.S.P., had come and after inspecting the roof departed after issuing threats.
Then on the 11th at 11.00 p.m., according to them, nearly 100 armed men, dressed in black, like commandos, suddenly arrived and without any hesitation climbed on to the roof and started firing. They then used swords to cut the victims.
According to the eyewitnesses the reasons for the killing are:
1. About one and a half years ago, 5 Yadavas had been killed in Bhulchack
2. The DSP, P.K. Mandal, was posted at Nawadah and, according to the people, he was asked to get Akhilesh Singh dead or alive.
3. Aksat Singh's uncle, Gore Lal Singh, had been murdered in which Akhilesh Singh was involved.
4. Repeated harassment of the family members of Akhilesh Singh.
5. The very existence of the Bhumihar caste was responsible for the killing.
When the PUCL team enquired whether the people had reported the harassment caused by P.K. Mandal, they answered in the negative.
(iii) Mianpur - The incident of Mianpur occurred on 15th June 2000 around 7.45 p.m.
The total number of persons killed - 35, out of which there were 20 women, 13 men, and 2 children.
Names of those
1. Gita Devi, (35); 2. Brijamati, (3); 3. Baliram Yadav; (30); 4. Shivbhajan Yadav (34);
5. Dularia Devi, (60); 6. Kanti Kumari, (14); 7.Usha Kumari, (5); 8.Gita Kumari, (20); 9.Sumina Devi, (20); 10.Jayanti Kumari, (12); 11. Rita Devi, (30); 12.Deonandan Yadav, (40); 13. Kun Kun Kumar, (3); 14. Pappu Kumar, (2); 15.Arjun Mistri (10); 16.Urmila Devi, (30); 17.Dila Devi, (40); 18.Laldeo Yadav, (65); 19.Rita Devi, (28); 20.Subodh Yadav, (25); 21.Lalita Devi, (50); 22.Devnandan Yadav, (70); 23. Krit Yadav, (65);
24. Akilesh Yadav, (25); 25.Rambachan Yadav, (25); 26.Devkalia Devi, (70); 27.Urmila Devi, (25); 28.Rambhajan Paswan, (50); 29.Dhirendra Yadav, (15); 30.Shiv Kumari Devi, (30); 31.Sumitra Devi, (90); 32.Munna Kumari, (12); 33.Kulia Devi, (50)
19 persons are injured, two of them are very serious.
The injured number seventeen. These were being treated at Magadh Medical College, Gaya
Among the people questioned by the teams were Ravindra Yadav, Karu Yadav, Indradev Mistry, Rameshwar Mistry, Muneshwar Yadav, Harihar Yadav, Anil Yadav, and Tapeshwar Yadav.
According to some villagers in Mianpur, who talked to the PUCL team, around midday some people had come to the village pretending to buy cattle. The suspicion of the villagers was aroused, who followed them and reported the incident at the Saharsa police picket. Their suspicion was dismissed saying that they were local people of nearby villages. In the evening the Saharsa picket came to the village and some time after they departed, the killings began.
of the recent spate of massacres
(1) Caste and Massacres:
At Rajebigha and Mianpur the attack does not seem to be targeted against any person or family, as it perhaps was at Apsarh. Even at Apsarh the victim family was only distantly related to Akhilesh Singh, who was apparently the target. That way, in one sense or the other, caste or kinship relation was the primary basis for the selection of the target. As such, these killings can be described as irresponsible and indiscriminate, even the pretext or justification by way of meting out punishment to some one responsible for a clear act of injustice or wrong was totally missing in all instances. That someone should become vulnerable and incur risk to life merely on account of his caste identity or relationship is the worst form of casteism that was manifest in the entire incident.
(2) Role of Police:
The role of police came in for criticism almost at every place. In two out of three incidents, there was a charge of complicity brought against the police force by the villagers. At Apsarh, the surviving members of the victim family as well as villagers hold one local DSP, P.K. Mandal, a party to the crime. Allegedly, he would often harass the kinsmen of Akhilesh Singh without any ground and had visited the site of occurrence two days prior to the incident. Some villagers went to the extent of averring that he was personally present at the time of massacre. While the latter fact seems unlikely, his complicity cannot be ruled out. The least that can be said with certainty is that the victim family and most other persons in the village had no faith in the person.
Likewise at Mianpur, the members of victim family alleged that Saharsa picket was informed about the suspicious visit of some persons during the day time on the pretext of search for buffaloes and the police contingent actually visited the village just a little before the attack but failed to either do anything or even show up after the incident. According to the villagers, at the time of attack, they should have been somewhere within the range in which they would hear the gunshots and yet they did not come back. In fact the police force at another point would reach the place first.
(b) There are three sets of arguments advanced by members of the police machinery to explain their failure to correct the situation in general.
First, and the most common, explanation is regarding the conditions of their work. The police force has outdated weapons even as sometimes they are pitted against people having SLRs, LMGs, or AK47. Their pay packet is poor and facilities available extremely inadequate. There is a general scarcity of vehicles, lack of knowledge of topography, especially in the forests, compounded by the lack of support from the villagers (for which in fact they themselves are to blame as a class).
Secondly, they sometimes talk about the lack of political will at the highest level. In a newspaper report appearing in the Times of India recently, the Jawans of BMP-1 were candid enough to say that 'let the ruling government show some political will and extremism will be wiped out from the face of Bihar.' (TOI, June 27). At the higher level of police machinery, occasional murmurings are heard regarding the frequent transfers of the SPs without any consideration of their work.
The third, and apparently the most dangerous part of the explanation from the police side, refers to their handicaps, legal and otherwise. In the report of the Times of India quoted earlier a jawan reportedly said "Give us powers to catch and kill the extremists like they kill us and the extremists will be wiped out from Bihar". Even the DGP in an interview wanted for the police the "right to decide". The question is what kind of right of decision they have in mind. There appears to be a general insensitivity to the principle of human rights. Respect for law is also consequently uncertain. If those responsible for upholding and enforcing law themselves are so different and non-committal in their attitudes, then the tendency to seek and achieve solutions independent of the framework of law and justice by various groups in quite natural.
(c) There may be
some substance in some of the complaints of the police, but they are not sufficient
to explain their failure. It is no secret that the police have been increasingly
subjected to undue pressure and interference by their political masters over
the years and they have been more than willing to do their bidding (barring
a few conscientious officers who refuse to yield and often pay the price). Consequently,
police action and inaction in some categories of cases are selective. The people
enjoying the patronage of the power that be including some criminals are allowed
to commit crimes with impunity while some of the criminals not so privileged
or sometimes political activists are killed in police custody or in fake encounters.
This nexus between the political leadership and the police seems to have blinded
the police to the fact that they owe their political masters. This unholy relationship
has resulted in the near collapse of the rule of law and erosion of the police
as an impartial law-enforcing agency.
The net result is that the police have become an ineffective instrument of enforcing the law and prevent crime. Crime cannot be controlled by posing the police at all vulnerable points or providing security to all, but by ensuring that crime, as a rule, will be followed by punishment. Certainty of punishment alone can be an effective deterrent against commission of more crimes. Since punishment for crimes has become a rarity in the state, the low breakers including the perpetrators or carnage feel free to strike as and when they choose.
(3) Politicians and Massacres
(a) The visits to the massacres sites by the political leaders actually do not inspire much confidence, if perception of the people from the villages or outside is any index. Many commented upon the fact that Mr. Laloo Prasad or Ms. Rabri Devi did not go to Apsarh when the victims were Bhumihars. It was pointed that on the other side that Dr. C. P. Thakur did not go to Mianpur because the victims were Yadav. The insinuation was obvious. The manner in which accusations and counter accusations are made confirms the suspicion among many that their sympathies for the victims is selective and their honesty in attempting any solution to the problem is doubtful. Most of the political leaders and political parties are reluctant to shun the politics of hatred and politics of caste even in the wake of numerous massacres in the state.
(b) If we turn
to the political back ground of the massacre in the state, they seem to arise
from two divergent and different ideological trends and political phenomena.
The justification offered for the creation of Senas has invariably been the
harassment caused to middle level peasants by the Naxal groups. It has often
been pleaded that given the increasing reluctance and inability of the state
machinery to provide physical security and a situation conducive to normal life
and cultivation, the farmers were forced to organize themselves and set up armed
squads of their own. The Naxals on the other hand refer to the continued exploitation
of the agricultural labour, economic and otherwise. The upper caste farmers
still not only refuse to treat them as equals but deny the basic human rights
to the members of lower caste. It has been a common complaint of dalit youths
that of they keeping sitting on cots in front of their homes when some of the
dominant persons, especially youths from upper caste are simply passing by,
it could invite their wrath. Even today there are cases galore when several
indignities are heaped upon male and female members of the dalit community.
It is true that both economic and social exploitation has perceptibly declined
in general, but a late phenomenon has been a reassertion of dominance in pockets
where they become strong. Organizations like Ranvir Sena contribute to that
The accusations made by both sides are exaggerated, even if there may be varying degrees of truth in them. In the accepted and constitutionally sanctified frame of rights and the general promise of democracy the grievances of the lower sections of the society may be more genuine and correct, but the manner of dealing with the situation may sometimes crate grater disharmony in the society and possible violence.
(c) However, the relationships of massacres are very much connected with the increased in organized crime on the one hand and the erosion of the morale and the efficiency of the police force on the other hand. Both the phenomena are linked with the contemporary style of politics in the State. The nexus between the politics and crime is direct and obvious. The situation has reached a pass where known criminals have directly entered into the electoral fray and managed to get elected themselves. On the other side political use of police machinery and interference is all too well known.
RJD or Samata-BJP brand of current politics also contributes to the politics of massacres. In fact, proportionate to their influence over the state system in its entirely they are to blame for the present state of affairs.
(a) Flouting on norms is taken to be sign of being important in the state of Bihar. It is being resorted to by the political class wit total impunity and arrogance. Not a week passes without reports appearing without the reports appearing in the press regarding an MLA or MP or a Minister taking the law in his hands and yet, rarely if ever, the guilty are brought to the book. During the last one fortnight only there were several reports of this nature. For e.g. a RJD MLA. Prahlad Yadav intimidated an executive engineer after the arrest of his supporter on the charge of power theft; Supreme Court ordered protection to a Siwan based businessman who had refused to pay rangdari tax to the men of the local MP, Mohd. Shahabuddin; a State Minister, Mr. Lalit Yadav kept his truck driver in illegal custody in official quarter for about a month and tortured him an inhuman manner.
If the men at the helm of aafairs show such scant regard for norms and laws and the police machinery is either scared or reluctant to take any action, then it is quite natural that the law of jungle should prevail in the state.
(4) The Geographical Spread
(a) The area affected by massacres is increasing. In Aurangabad, after 1996, there was relative peace though the district was by and large dominated by the MCC. Ranvir Sena concentrated its activities in Bhojpur and then Jehanabad, Mianpur massacre shows the arrival of Ranvir Sena in Aurangabad and may trigger off a fresh round of clashes.
Nawada was hitherto relatively unaffected by organized killings of this type although another kind of killing by local criminal gangs was not uncommon. This time, however, the nature of killings resembled the modus operandi of Ranvir Sena. Ina report appearing in Times of India a journalist has made significant remark that Ranvir Sena has given killing franchise to Akhilesh Singh' in Nawada. If there is a linkage between criminal gangs operating in the state, (many of them indeed operate with total impunity) and the violence being perpetrated by private caste based Senas like Ranveer Sena, then their combined strength will be more difficult to tackle. Whatever Ranveer Sena does surely comes within the definition of criminality and so this unholy alliance will doubly jeopardize the security of the people of the state. Given the paralysis of the state machinery the increasing strength of the Naxals on the hand and the Senas on the other, the future does not augur well for the state.
(b) Most of the massacres have been taking place in the villages, which are not easily approachable by road. Laxmanpur Bathe, Senari, and Mianpur were inaccessible by motor vehicle. In fact in the interiors of Central Bihar, in particular in Bhojpur or Jehanabad - the worst affected districts there is hardly any trace of development and progress. Roads seem to have progressively deteriorated, sometimes culverts and bridges have fallen and there is no economic activity other then and farming diary. Most of the schools are in bad shape; government primary health centers are few and far between. Reportedly a huge amount of money was provided by the Centre after the Bathe tragedy for investment in Central Bihar, yet nothing appears to have improved. For reaching Mianpur from Patna one has to travel from Gaya to Goh or from Arwal to Goh on the state highway. Except some patchwork on the Gaya side which may have been done recently, there is perhaps no stretch of even half a kilometer which is not full of big pot holes. In the total absence of economic development the only ideology borrowed from outside is that of hatred and conflict and the main commodity procured are arms and ammunition. The society has no agenda except to flight for the preservation of smallest imagined privileges of the tiny financial gains or the protection of their perceived democratic riots. A handful of workers from dalit community go out in search of jobs. They come back with some money and a more acute realization of their socially deprived status. The impulse of development is so weak, the initiatives through government sponsored schemes so little and unconvincing that progress and development does not enter into the agenda and aspirations of the society in general.
(5) Civil Society
At some level the civil society, in general has to take the blame for the chaotic state if affairs in Bihar. If the state machinery appears to have failed in most of the areas, then there has been little attempt made by the civil society to intervene. Most of the associations and various teacher's bodies or professional groups seen to be ore-occupied with their own narrow interests and sometimes also divided along caste lines. The simple fact that the anarchy and the sometimes also divided along caste lines. The simple fact that the anarchy and the disorder would ultimately jeopardize the basic interests of one and all seldom bothers them. Occasional knee jerk reaction, when one of their own kin is a victim, proves too inadequate, meager and weak against the forces of disorder and violence against whom they have to work.
In a democracy, the loss of popular support restrains political parties from indulging in activities, which may lead to loss of votes. In Bihar, caste loyalty has such a firm grip on the mind of a sizeable section of the society that the misconduct of the government or individual politicians does not result on any significant loss of votes. On a particular issue there may be a general feel of outrage among the people. They may join hands in a common agitation, but they are most likely to vote according to their caste affiliation. This has emboldened political parties to induct criminals in their fold and give them tickers to win elections.
The ruling party also takes it supporters for granted and is not all bothered about good governance. Unless the people of Bihar give up their caste loyalty and learn to vote on the basis of the performance of a government and conduct of their representatives, there may not be much hope for relief from the ongoing traumatic experiences.
What may be done
If an effective
and impartial police administration is ensured it would make it unnecessary
for the oppressed to take the law in their own hands to settle scores with their
tormentors. The failure of the police to enforce the law against the privileged
section of the rural society leads to a situation in which the oppressed is
forced to choose between either reconciling to his fate or taking the law in
this own hands to punish his tormentor. It is in this situation that the armed
organizations ready to take up cudgel on their behalf, win their gratitude and
Similarly of the administration eliminated the genuine grievances of the farmers, the Senas may lose their support, and even if a few with their vested interest persisted, they may be isolated and curbed.
It is primarily the failure of the state to enforce its civil and criminal laws, which has created a situation in which different sections of the people feel compelled to fight each other.
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(PUCL Bulletin, Sept. 2000)