The facts and figures do not matter anymore. Nor do the reasons. A perusal of the list of caste massacres that occurred in Central Bihar between 1995 and 2002 prove one point: the capacity of the perpetrators to shock by inflicting wanton pain.

Ekwari, Bathani Tola, Shankar Bigha, Narayanpur, Mianpur: the names evoke a wave of sickness as pregnant women and minors were hacked to death by the Ranvir Sena, the most brutal private army.

However, the Sena's relentless killings climaxed on the night of December 1, 1997, when the gruesome Dalit massacre — the indiscriminate killing of 58 Dalit men, women and children — was carried out at Laxmanpur-Bathe village in Arwal district.

But justice has been conveniently shelved for the last 13 years, with successive governments having failed to bring the Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya to book.

In the verdict passed by the Patna Additional District and Sessions Court on April 7, 16 of the 45 persons tried were sentenced to death; while 10 were awarded life imprisonment.

It has now come to light that Brahmeshwar could not be tried as investigations against him are yet to be closed, following which he was declared an “absconder.”

“He [Brahmeshwar] is lodged in Ara jail for the last 8 years. But the prosecution failed to remand him,” informed the SP of Bhojpur.

Why then was the prosecution unable to produce the most wanted person in the State who was lodged in a jail less than 65 km. from Patna?

“It was the police's duty to inform the prosecution of his location,” said Special Public Prosecutor for the Bathe carnage, Sudhir Kumar Sinha.

“The prosecution withdrew the petition when it learned that Brahmeshwar's case was still pending in the court of CJM Jehanabad,” Mr. Sinha said.

When the police was asked why the prosecution was not informed of Brahmeshwar's location, sources within the Bhojpur police said that “it was a matter concerning the Patna police that they failed to notify the prosecution.”

“More than any sinister cover-up, it is a clear case of negligence on the part of the police,” said Mr. Sinha, adding that “the investigation agencies had not yet closed the case against Brahmeshwar Mukhiya.”

“Contrary to what has been reported in the media, the records show that Brahmeshwar is yet to be charge-sheeted,” Mr. Sinha said.

“The CJM Jehanabad in 1998 separated his case from that of the other accused in the massacre. His case was then transferred from Mehandya to Parasi police station in Arwal,” he said.

Nobody knows what is the status of the investigation there. Attempts to talk to higher-ups in the judiciary have proven futile as the answer usually given is that “the matter is too sensitive to be discussed.”

After the April 7 verdict, the question that remains is whether the Mukhiya, now in his twilight years, will ever be brought to justice, or will political expediency triumph again.

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