The civil court at Ara on Wednesday sentenced three persons to death and 20 others to life imprisonment for the 1996 Bathani Tola carnage, in which 21 Dalits were slaughtered by the Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords. On May 5, the court convicted the 23 accused, but acquitted 30 others for want of evidence.

Amid heavy security, Additional District and Sessions Judge (Ara) Ajay Kumar Srivastava pronounced the quantum of punishment.

Speaking to The Hindu from Ara, Special Public Prosecutor Rambabu Prasad said the case against the prime accused, Ranvir Sena Supremo Brahmeshwar Singh “Mukhiya,” was being reopened and would soon be submitted to the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ara.

Mr. Prasad filed a petition in the Chief Judicial Magistrate court on April 19, urging that the case against the Mukhiya be committed to the District and Sessions Court. This marks the beginning of the process to bring the Mukhiya to justice, a process he has been eluding for the past 14 years.

Brahmeshwar, listed as an “absconder” by the Sahar police since the carnage, continued to be a non-FIR accused even after he was nabbed in Patna on August 29, 2002.

The case was committed to the court of the sessions judge on January 24, 1998. The charges were framed against 62 accused (one died by that time) on March 24, 2000.