National

Cobrapost film on Bihar Dalit massacres ‘exposes’ BJP links

‘Murli Manohar Joshi and C.P. Thakur instigated Ranvir Sena members to commit murders’

Retired Justice Amir Das, who inquired into the massacre of 58 Dalits in Lakshmanpur Bathe village in Jehanabad in 1997, has stated on record that BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and C.P. Thakur, were responsible for instigating members of the Ranvir Sena, an armed private militia of landowning upper caste men, to commit the murders, according to a documentary produced by ‘Cobrapost’ screened here on Monday.

Another high profile politician who was named in the documentary as helping the Ranvir Sena was former Indian Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. Siddhnath Rai, a member of the Sena, was quoted as saying that he helped the group procure military reject weapons.

Mr. Das is also quoted as naming Janata Dal (United) leader Shivanand Tiwari as one of the politicians who also played a part in instigating the Ranvir Sena.

Four major massacres of Dalit men, women and children occurred in Bihar between 1997 and 2000, and in all these cases the accused, who were convicted by the trial court, were mostly let off by the Patna High Court.

‘Operation Black Rain’, the sting operation Cobrapost conducted, exposes how justice has been delayed and denied to the victims. Undercover journalist K. Ashish travelled to villages of Bihar in Jehanabad, Bhojpur and Gaya in search of the witnesses to the killings and many of them have deposed before the camera recounting the horrors of the incident.

The film also exposes the impunity with which the Sena carried out the murders. Chandeshwar Singh, a commander of the Sena, has been captured on camera talking about how he murdered 32 Dalit villagers in Bathani Tola using mostly unlicensed weapons.

Some other Sena members also confessed to committing murders. All of them went scot free after acquittal. The documentary also contains an interview with Bhola Rai, who is considered absconding in the massacre cases, where he is quoted as saying the Sena members were trained by the military to use weapons. Pramod Singh, another Sena member, narrated how weapons were procured for their army from the 1995 Purulia arms-drop incident.

Plea to apex court

V.A. Ramesh Nathan, general secretary of the National Dalit Movement for Justice called for better implementation of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act since caste plays a central role in instigating such murders. He called for the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the evidence in the film to initiate trial against the accused.

Cobrapost founder-editor Aniruddha Bahal said if a reporter could discover so much about the cases, the police investigating these cases could do better to bring the murderers to book.

Rubbishing allegations that the film intends to create a political storm ahead of the impending Bihar elections, he said that the documentary only approaches the issue from a criminal justice perspective. The documentary also captures the history of the Ranvir Sena as narrated by Siddhnath Rai.

Formed by Dharicharan Singh of Belaur village, Bhojpur district, to contain rural unrest among landless agricultural labourers, who had begun to organise themselves under the CPI-ML (Liberation,) the Ranveer Sena resorted to murder provoked by these labourer’s increased demands for better wages. The outfit was named Ranvir Sena after Dharicharan’s kin, Ranveer Chaudhry, a retired army man.

This story has been edited to include additional information.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 2:46:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cobrapost-film-on-bihar-dalit-massacres-exposes-bjp-links/article7551350.ece

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