Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports an incident from the past as though it has happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to re-live it several years later, on the date it had occurred. This time, we take you Back in Time to the horror of the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre.
December 1, 1997: In one of the darkest episodes of post-independent India, over fifty Dalits were slaughtered in cold blood in the village of Laxmanpur Bathe, in the Arwal district of Bihar. The village, 90 kilometers from the capital Patna and on the banks of the river Son had seen brief episodes of violence between the local upper caste landlords and the lower caste laborers in the past few days.
“We were all going to bed when this truck full of goons with guns pulled up and barged into our huts,” Nandu, a fifteen-year-old survivor told the police as he recuperated from a bullet injury to his leg. “They rounded us up, called us Naxals, beat us up with sticks and fired their guns at us as we tried to flee,” he said.
Although reports are still sketchy, unconfirmed rumours and statements from survivors suggest that members of the Ranvir Sena, the militant group constituted by upper caste landlords were responsible for the massacre. The Ranvir Sena, headed by Brahmeshwar Singh has a record of violence and hate speech against local Maoists and local Dalits. The Ranvir Sena has denied any involvement in the episode but, they did not express any regret about the tragedy at Laxmanpur Bathe either.
The Ranvir Sena has been accused of having orchestrated many massacres over the past year including one in Bhojpur back in July when 21 Dalits including 11 women and children were slaughtered in the middle of the day. Despite the arrests of several Ranvir Sena activists for the massacre, however, the police haven’t yet been able to make a case against the accused. When asked about the massacre, however, Ranvir Sena’s statement sounded ominous.
“We kill children because they will grow up to become Naxalites. We kill women because they will give birth to Naxalites,” they said. When asked whether they expected any justice for the dead in Laxmanpur Bathe, survivors of the Bhojpur massacre were certain they did not.
On hearing about the massacre, the State government were quick to condemn the incident and ordered a high-level probe into the matter. However, it is unlikely to bear any results considering there have been no charges or convictions in any of the cases that had precede December 1st.
Post-scriptum: No one killed the 58 men, women and children that were slaughtered like pigs on the night of December 1st, 1997. At least that’s what the tardy police investigation and the Patna High Court order acquitting the 26 accused suggests. Despite the very vocal condemnation of the incident and the High Court order by political parties across the board such as the RJD, JD(U) and the BJP, there has been little motivation or incentive for any party to take the investigation or the trial seriously. In fact, the collective perception among the media, human rights organizations and Dalits is the fact that political parties have aided and abetted those responsible for the massacre.
Part of the reason why this isn’t out of the question is because of the fact that the Ranvir Sena is constituted by Bhumihar and Rajput landlords, upper-caste men who hold a lot of influence, money, and votes in the region.
Founder Brahmeshwar Singh was shot to death by gunmen in 2012. However, the dark specter of the Ranvir Sena and violence, especially against Dalits and other lower castes remains an unfortunate reality seventy years after independence. Discrimination remains rampant in the hundreds of villages across India and despite the provisions of our many laws and Constitution, India hasn’t let go of the idea of caste and is far from the utopia of inter-caste harmony. As long as the perpetrators of Laxmanpur Bathe, Bhojpur and the many massacres before and after remain at large, this utopia will remain that. A utopia.
P.S: Do catch Cobrapost’s documentary/sting on the Ranvir Sena.
Image Sources: Google Images