Huge Protest in front of Bihar Bhawan against acquittal of accused in Shankarbigha Dalit massacre

January 30, 2015

KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS)

DELHI UNIT OF ALL INDIA REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH ORGANISATION

T-44, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Ph. : 9958116114       

Date-29.01.2015

PRESS RELEASE

HUGE PROTEST IN FRONT OF BIHAR BHAWAN AGAINST ACQUITTAL OF ACCUSED IN SHANKARBIGHA DALIT MASSACRE!

DELEGATION SUBMITS A MEMORANDUM ADDRESSED TO CM OF BIHAR!

LOCAL POLICE MANHANDLES PEACEFUL PROTESTERS!

On Thursday, 29 January, a large number of students and activists gathered at Bihar Bhawan, Delhi, to protest against the acquittal of all the accused in the Shankarbigha Dalit massacre. On 14 January 2014, a Trial Court in Jehanabad District of Bihar acquitted all the 24 members of Ranvir Sena who were accused in Shankarbigha killings on grounds of “lack of evidence”. While angry Dalit youth and students protested outside Bihar Bhawan under the banner of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, a two-member delegation submitted a memorandum to Kumar Digvijay, Joint Labour Commissioner, Government of Bihar. The protesters continued their peaceful protest till their delegation returned. They put up a stiff resistance to high-handed police action and manhandling of KYS activists by the Ashok Nagar Police constables and SHO, who desperately tried to disrupt the peaceful demonstration.

The three demands underlined in the memorandum were: (i) Immediate enquiry into the entire case of acquittal of the accused, (ii) provision of witness protection to all the witnesses in the case, and (iii) provision of alternative employment opportunity for all the witnesses so that they are not economically vulnerable and thereby compelled to compromise in the case. The protesters also demanded that Amir Das Commission Report be made public so that the unholy alliance between particular political parties and the upper-caste terrorist outfit, Ranveer Sena, is revealed.

It is to be noted that among the 23 persons killed in the Shankarbigha massacre, seven were children (including a 10 month old child), five women and eleven men. All of them were from families of landless agricultural workers from the Dalit and backward communities of Paswan, Chamar, Dushads, and Rajwar. A private militia of the Bhumihar (loosely described as a landlord) caste, i.e. the Ranvir Sena, unleashed the terror on the victims on the 25 January 1999 – the eve of Republic Day. The Ranvir Sena in the 1990s had gained the notorious reputation of caste-based violence across many villages in the Bhojpur, Jehanabad, Aurangabad and Gaya districts of Bihar. Indeed, the Shankarbigha killings were part of the series of “caste-cleansing” undertaken by the private upper-caste Rajput and Bhumihar militias like Sunlight Sena, Savarna Liberation Front and Ranvir Sena in the agrarian ecosystem of central Bihar districts. In the 27 reported incidents of massacres by Ranvir Sena, 400 lower-caste children, women and men have perished.

Despite strong reactions to the Shankarbigha incident, both in Delhi and Bihar, the legal case has seen inexplicable delay and denial of basic rights to witnesses. Though the FIR in this case was registered on 26 January 1999, but the charges-sheet was filed only in 2001. Moreover, all the 24 accused of this case were granted bail in 2001 itself. The trial itself was completed in about 15 years! Even the provisions of The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 were not applied in the case of Shankarbigha massacre. Altogether 50 persons (49 witnesses and 1 Informant) were brought in the trial court to provide evidence against the accused of the carnage the Trial Court judge ruled that there was “lack of evidence”. With the court and police’s denial of witness protection within their village as well as the unwillingness to shift witnesses to Patna, it was not surprising that the witnesses were victimized and forced to turn hostile.

Expectedly then, after 16 years of a court battle, the accused in the Shankarbigha massacre have been set free by the Trial Court. The cover-up and acquittal of persons accused of “caste-cleansing” is part of a gory and disturbing list of similar incidents of casteist violence that have seen complete acquittal and therefore blatant denial of justice. The trial courts are not lone participants in this disturbing pattern of acquittal. Four Patna High Court verdicts, i.e. in the case of Bathani Tola (April 2012), Nagari Bazaar (March 2013), Miyanpur (July 2013), and Laxmanpur Bathe (October 2013) have acquitted all those upper caste persons who had been convicted by the Trial Courts. On the other hand, the courts have pronounced severe judgments on lower-caste accused in caste-based violence. For example, in the case of the Bara massacre (1992), the lower accused of killing upper-caste landlords were immediately slapped with charges under TADA. This was despite the fact that Ranvir Sena had been declared an outlawed body.

We request the sanhati team to please post the details of the protest against caste oppression and the acquittal of the accused in the Shankarbigha massacre.

Thanking You,
Harish Gautam
Anti-caste Cell
KYS
For further information contact: 09958116114