The Patna High Court's acquittal of those sentenced by the lower court in connection with the massacre of 21 Dalits in Bathani Tola in 1996 is indeed unfortunate (“For residents of Bathani, it is a horror they cannot forget,” April 19). Is it not the state's duty to render justice to the victims of the massacre? As it is, it failed in its duty to prevent such a ghastly incident. Now comes the acquittal, which rubs the incident in. Is it not a fact that the horror took place? Why is no one guilty of perpetrating it?
Justice delivery has become a ping pong game, with the trial court convicting the accused and the High Court acquitting them. When the lower court awarded capital punishment and life sentence to the accused on the basis of evidence put forward by the prosecution, how could the prosecution fail at the appellate stage? No wonder there is so much unrest in the country as justice continues to elude the oppressed. If the Ranbir Sena did not kill the 21 Dalits, who did?
Lt Col Ganesh Surath (retd.),
The bloody massacre that took 21 lives is not a tale but a real-life incident that cannot be erased by the passage of time or punishing the guilty. The acquittal of those accused of perpetrating the carnage is bound to create fresh fears in the minds of survivors and witnesses who deposed in the trial court. The Bihar government should act swiftly to remove the fear from their minds and provide them adequate protection and employment for their survival.
The statement that the fear of the survivors “is compounded by the fact that their source of security, the CPI (ML), today lacks the necessary leadership at the ground level” reflects the sorry state of affairs in the sensitive region. Whatever happened to the government's responsibility to protect the weaker sections? One is shocked on reading the comment of a Sena sympathiser that the Dalits “had it coming.” It is no wonder that the poor in many troubled States drift towards the naxalites, and the extremists wage a war against the state.
Twenty-three men facing murder charges in the Bathani Tola carnage got the benefit of doubt because justice was delayed and Dalit organisations, including the media, did not keep the issue alive or apply pressure to seek justice. Had the long arm of justice not taken 16 years, crucial evidence would not have become defunct and defective. A time-limit should be set for delivering verdicts in cases involving caste and communal violence. Inordinate delays weaken even the strongest cases. Bathani Tola is a fit case for media activism.
The Bathani carnage is so similar to the extermination of the residents of Bithur village by the British after the 1857 rising. More horrifying is the shocking “justification” by the Sena sympathiser. The panic following the Patna High Court verdict depicts the utter insecurity and helplessness of the villagers.