The Exit of Brahmeshwar Singh
Brahmeshwar Singh, the founder of the notorious Ranveer Sena and the mastermind behind dozens of massacres perpetrated by the Sena in Shahabad and Magadh regions of Bihar between 1995 and 2000, was gunned down at Ara in the early hours of 1 June. The cremation took place in Patna on the next evening. For two full days, Sena supporters went on a rampage, attacking hostels of dalit students at Ara, setting on fire private or public vehicles parked anywhere on the Ara-Patna route, beating up passers-by and journalists trying to take snaps of their acts of arson and vandalism. Ara on 1st June and Patna on 2nd June wore a deserted look and the state administration virtually disappeared from the scene leaving the people at the mercy of this rampaging contingent of thugs. As we go to press, reports of renewed attempts at whipping up a feudal frenzy are coming in from many corners of the state. So much for the real meaning of good governance and rule of law in the Nitish Kumar dispensation!
CPI(ML) Statement on Ranvir Sena Vandalism in Patna and the Role of the Bihar Government
New Delhi, 3 June 2012: Seldom in our recent memory have we seen a funeral procession indulge in such indiscriminate acts of vandalism and arson as Ranvir Sena men participating in the funeral procession of Barmeswar Singh did in Ara, Patna and elsewhere in Bihar on June 1-2. This has once again exposed the true character of the Sena which had shamed Bihar and the entire humanity earlier by perpetrating dozens of brutal and barbaric massacres in various districts of Shahabad and Magadh zone.
Even though the Ranveer Sena was formally banned soon after its inception, the Sena had all the freedom in the world to carry out one massacre after another, usually at night but at times also in broad daylight, killing hundreds of innocent people, sparing neither women nor children or elderly people. The gruesome killings were sought to be justified with the most macabre logic possible – the massacres were the only way to wipe out the CPI(ML)! Women were targeted as they would give birth to Naxalites, children were eliminated as they would otherwise grow into Naxalites! The police were often hand in glove with the killers. While the Sena butchered people at Bathani Tola, the police were present in as many as three camps and one police station within a vicinity of 100 metres to two kilometres and yet not a single bullet was fired. In Ekwari village of Bhojpur, it was the police that raided houses so the Sena could barge in and kill people.
It was only in 2002 when the Sena had been completely exposed and isolated that the Sena chief was finally arrested in what many believed was essentially a case of surrender. The Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Amir Das that was set up in the wake of the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre in December 1997 to probe the politico-administrative links of the Ranveer Sena was never really allowed to take off and soon after he became the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar officially disbanded the commission much to the relief of many political bigwigs of Bihar. Incidentally, almost all the political leaders of the BJP, JD(U), RJD and Congress who had been summoned by the Amir Das Commission were conspicuously present in Singh’s funeral.
When the massacre cases finally came up for trial, in a mockery of judicial procedures, in the cases of both Bathani Tola and Bathe, Brahmeswar Singh was declared an absconder even as he was in jail and judgement delivered for the other accused! Singh was eventually let out on bail in 2011 when Nitish Kumar became Chief Minister for the second time.
After the recent Patna High Court verdict acquitting all the 23 persons convicted by the Ara Court in May 2010 for the Bathani Tola massacre, Singh warned the government not to appeal to the Supreme Court against the acquittal. Following his provocative statements and renewed attempts to whip up feudal violence, the CPI(ML) had called upon the Nitish Kumar government to get Singh’s bail cancelled. This was in fact one of the demands on which CPI(ML) leaders had been on an indefinite fast in Patna, Ara and Daudnagar from May 26 onward.
While Singh’s supporters and even sections of the media tried their best to project him as a hero or saviour of the peasantry, the informed democratic opinion in Bihar as well as the rest of the country treated him as one of the most hated symbols of decaying feudal domination in Bihar. The world heard of Brahmeswar Singh not as leader of any kind of peasant movement, but only through the most brutal massacres carried out by the Ranveer Sena. No wonder that few tears were shed after the news of his killing spread and his supporters had to go on a rampage to ‘mourn’ his exit.
Nitish Kumar Regime’s Double Standards Stand Exposed
General Secretary, CPI(ML)
The formation of the Ranveer Sena itself was an act of last-ditch feudal desperation to reclaim the decaying feudal hegemony of yesteryear. Far from intimidating the people, the massacres however only steeled the resolve of the rural poor to fight back and the sustained political battle waged by the CPI(ML) had left the Sena thoroughly exposed and isolated. Renewed attempts by Brahmeswar Singh and all the patronage of the JD(U)-BJP government could not put much life back into the once dreaded feudal private army. The question many are asking now is whether the exit of Brahmeswar Singh will once again revive the Ranveer Sena? Initial reports may well indicate an emotional backlash, but one can only hope that saner wisdom will prevail and the folly of Ranveer Sena will not be attempted again.
The exit of Brahmeswar Singh may signify the exit of one of the most notorious symbols of Bihar’s stubborn feudal vestiges, but that by no means should be construed as an automatic weakening of feudal forces in Bihar. Feudal forces still weigh quite heavily on the legislative, judicial and bureaucratic balance in Bihar as can be inferred from signs like the disbanding of the Amir Das Commission, the abandoning of the Report of the Land Reforms Commission and the most recent acquittal of the perpetrators of the Bathani Tola massacre. But even if it signals the end of the feudal private army mode in the twenty-first century, it will mean not a small victory for the people in one of the historic sites of India’s protracted war for social transformation and genuine democracy.
Movement for Justice in Bihar
One year after the barbaric Forbesganj firing (3 June, 2011) which had claimed four innocent Muslim lives, the commission of inquiry set up by the Bihar government is yet to submit its report while the SP of Araria who had presided over the police atrocity has been promoted to the post of Senior SP and deployed in the sensitive district of Darbhanga where Muslim youth are being increasingly demonised and harassed by the state as ‘perceived terrorists’. On May 2, 2012 Aurangabad witnessed similar kind of police barbarity where the police unleashed a brutal crackdown to stop a popular protest against the murder of a popular mukhiya. Comrade Rajaram Singh, member of the CPI(ML) Central Committee and two-term MLA (1995-2005) from Obra constituency in the district was brutally beaten up again and again by the SP himself and arrested with 28 other protestors. Despite widespread protests including a highly successful Bihar Bandh on May 10, the autocratic government refuses to release the protestors or initiate any action against the erring SP and DM.
On 15 May a 5-member delegation of CPI(ML) leaders comprising Comrades KD Yadav, Rameswar Prasad, Arun Singh, Anwar Hussein and Shashi Yadav met chief minister Nitish Kumar and asked him to stop this growing injustice, release Comrade Rajaram and his comrades, initiate action against guilty policemen including the SP of Aurangabad, order CBI probe into Forbesganj firing and the recent spate of political murders, cancel bail for Brahmeshwar Singh, and guarantee justice for the victims of Bathani Tola. Six teams went on an intensive Nyay Yatra (March for Justice) addressing hundreds of meetings on this pressing agenda of justice. The Nyay Yatra culminated in a massive Jan Sunwai (public hearing) on 21 May in the state capital where a 7-member jury comprising noted academics, advocates, activists and journalists endorsed the popular demands for justice.
When the state government still failed to heed the growing cry for justice, an indefinite fast was launched by the CPI(ML) simultaneously in three centres on May 26 under the leadership of Comrades Arun Singh (Patna), Sudama Prasad (Ara, Bhojpur) and Anwar Hussein (Daudnagar, Aurangabad).
Following Brahmeshwar Singh’s death, as Ranveer Sena supporters rampaged, the police refused to provide protection to the hunger strike sites. The fast was called off on June 2, but the campaign for justice continued.
The party and its student wing AISA protested the attack on dalit hostels in Ara (see report below for details.) When the Nitish Government announced a CBI enquiry into Brahmeshwar’s killing, the party held a state-wide “Dhikkar Diwas” (Condemnation Day) against the Nitish Government’s double standards in unleashing repression and ridicule on protestors demanding CBI enquiry into the Forbesganj Police firing and the political murders of Bhaiyaram Yadav and Chhotu Kushwaha and instead disbanding of the Justice Amir Das Commission and giving nod for CBI enquiry into the murder of the Ranveer Sena chief. The party also protested the Government’s reluctance to file a review petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the Patna High Court’s verdict acquitting all the accused in Bathani Tola massacre.
On 15 June, give Left parties – the CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), Forward Bloc and SUCI – held a joint dharna at Patna, as well as dharnas at district headquarters in Bihar demanding CBI probe into the political connections of Ranveer Sena, police firing in Forbesganj, Amausi case where innocent Musahars have been awarded death sentence, and into the killings of CPI(ML) leader Bhaiyaram yadav in Rohtas, Chhotu Kushwaha, a popular Mukhiya in Aurangabad, and murders of Surendra Yadav and Yogendra Sao. The dharnas also demanded that the Nitish Government fulfil its announcement of appealing the Bathani verdict in the Supreme Court. The dharna held that the CBI inquiry into the killing of Brahmeshwar Singh was a surrender before feudal forces, and demanded that this probe too should encompass all the mass massacres carried out by the Ranveer Sena and latter’s political connections as well as its funding sources. Similarly, a CBI probe was instituted in the case of killing of BJP MLA Rajkishore Kesri at Purnia in what came to be known as Rupam Pathak case, but the central investigation agency was not given the task to look into the charges of rape and sexual abuse suffered by the her.
Nitish claimed that the CBI probe had been ordered into Brahmeshwar’s killing because his family members sought it. At the Left parties’ dharna, family members of the victims of Forbesganj firing, and of mahadalits convicted in the Amausi case; as well as wives of Bhaiyyaram Yadav and Chhotu mukhiya participated and demanded to know why their appeal for CBI probe were being ignored. They wrote to the CM formally asking him to order a CBI probe.
CPI(ML) Politburo member Ramjatan Sharma and Nand Kishore Prasad, Bihar CPI(ML) State Secretary Kunal, Central Committee member Dhirendra Jha, CPI State Secretary Rajendra Singh, CPI Secretariat member Jabbar Alam, CPM leader Arun Mishra, SUCI(C)’s Arun Singh and Forward Bloc leader Vakil Thakur joined the dharna at Kargil Chowk in Patna.
Apart from the double standards in ordering CBI probe, and surrender before feudal forces, the dharna also demanded a high level probe into the scam in the purchase of uninhabitable land to be allotted to Mahadalit families in Araria and Nalanda districts, and dismissal of Health Minister Ashwini Chaubey for his criminal neglect which had resulted in the death of more than 100 children from encephalitis.
The dharnas were also held in all important centres of Bihar including Bhojpur, Siwan, Arwal, Sasaram, Nalanda, Gaya, Bhagalpur, Begusarai, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Shekhpura, Mujaffarpur, Gopalganj, Purnea and Araria.
Attack on Dalit Hostels in Ara by Ranveer Sena Goons
Exposes Nitish’s Secular Posturing
Nitish has been posing as a counterpoint and ‘secular’ alternative to Narendra Modi...
But the Bihar Govt. and police’s attitude to violence by Ranveer Sena supporters in the wake of Brahmeshwar Singh’s killing belies this claim.
On 1 June, Brahmeshwar Singh, Ranveer Sena chief, was killed in the early morning at Katira in Ara. On the same day, the Ranveer Sena supporters, in addition to widespread arson and violence on public property, targeted dalit hostels in Ara.
The Nitish Govt. was prompt to announce Rs 8 lakh as compensation for the gas cylinder accident at Brahmeshwar Singh’s shraddha ceremony - but is yet to take any steps to reconstruct the dalit hostels set on fire by Brahmeshwar’s supporters; or to compensate students whose belongings including certificates etc were destroyed.
Nitish fiddled like Nero while Ranveer Sena supporters burnt dalit hostels. Police did not respond to SOS by the students even though the hostels were attacked thrice. The police even when they arrived, remained mute spectators to the firing, arson, and loot. Is this not reminiscent of Gulbarg society and Gujarat 2002?
These incidents suggest that behind Nitish’s secular facade and anti-Modi posturing, he himself is a budding mini-Modi of Bihar!
Shivprakash Ranjan, a resident of Ambedkar Kalyan Hostel at Katira,which is near Ara’s Veer Kunwar Singh University, recounts the incident and its aftermath.
Very early in the morning of June 1, students in the hostel who were asleep or just awakening were terrified to hear violent slogans and shots fired. Ranveer Sena goons, along with JD(U)’s youth wing district president Naveen Kumar Singh, attacked the hostel, raising slogans of ‘AK-47 Zindabad’, ‘AK-56 Zindabad’ and ‘Ranveer Sena Zindabad’, and firing shots. They began by setting students’ bicycles on fire and breaking the hostel’s windows and doors. Terror-struck students initially bolted rooms and hid under beds. In one wing of the hostel, two students were badly beaten by the miscreants. For a full hour, there was arson and looting in the hostel, with no sign of police.
When the police finally arrived, instead of stopping the miscreants and protecting the students, they pressurised students to flee, warning them to avoid taking the main gate and avoid taking bags and belongings. In the presence of police, students escaped by jumping out of windows and scaling walls.
16 ground floor rooms were fully burnt, and belongings looted. 100 students’ marksheets, certificates, and other documents were burnt. 40-50 cycles and 3 motorcycles were burnt. Laptops, TV sets, gas cylinders, cookers, vessels were either destroyed or looted. A bust of Dr. Ambedkar was vandalised.
The miscreants attacked the hostel thrice, but the police did nothing to stop them or protect the hostel and its residents. Two other dalit hostels – Chandi Lodge near Jain College, and another hostel at Maulabag – were attacked, with firing and stone-pelting.
On 4 June, some students tried to visit the hostel to salvage their belongings, but were chased away by police, who warned them that students would not be allowed to enter the rooms for at least 6 months.
When students petitioned the District Welfare Officer (DWO) to be allowed to see their rooms, the Magistrate Sunil Sharma who was present there, abused students, and police chased away students who attempted to enter the hostel. The students approached the DWO again, but the latter avoided giving any clear answer.
On 5 June, AISA met the SDO and told him that many of the students had exams in fortnight’s time, and rehabilitation in the hostel was therefore a must. Students also needed to look for their documents which would be needed for college applications. Subsequently the administration agreed to show students their rooms.
Since 11 June, some students have begun staying in the hostel again, though they remain in fear. Armed police has been stationed for their protection, as a result of AISA’s intervention. No Government official met the students till 17 June. On 18 June, hostel students organized by AISA gheraoed the DM.
Students broke police barricades at the main gate of the DM’s office, and held a mass meeting for three hours. Yet the DM did not see fit to meet the students. Instead, students were arrested. The DM met students only at 4 pm on 19 June. AISA demanded compensation and speedy hostel accommodation for the students, and criminal cases against assailants.
On 20 June, AISA and RYA held a militant demonstration to the Chief Minister, led by AISA State Secretary Abhyuday and RYA State Secretary Naveen Kumar. Students marched at noon, clashed with the police at Dakbangla crossing, broke the barricades and marched towards the IT crossing. They were stopped by police at Kotwali Thana and arrested. Inside the police station too they continued to demand to meet the CM. Late in the evening, an AISA-RYA delegation met the SC/ST Welfare Minister Jitanram Majhi, and also sent a letter to the CM, demanding that the hostel be properly rebuilt speedily, and legally allotted to students; students be compensated for the losses they suffered; degrees that were destroyed be reissued to students speedily; students be provided with full security, and provided with alternative living and food arrangements in the interim till the hostel is rebuilt. The DM has estimated the loss suffered at the hostel ridiculously low: a mere Rs 8 lakh; whereas in reality, if one were to calculate the cost of rooms destroyed, TVs, computers, bicycles looted, documents destroyed, a much higher compensation is due, and in fact each individual student ought to be compensated. AISA also pointed out that the dalit hostels are in a sorry state all over Bihar, and demanded an investigation into the diversion of funds meant for SC/ST welfare, as well as the rampant scams in dalit students’ scholarships.
Living in Fear
[Chintu Kumari, a JNU (MA, CPS, 1st year) student whose brother Sandeep lives in Ambedkar Kalyan Hostel, recounts her visit to the hostel.]
I accompanied my brother and other students on 8 June, when they attempted to look for and retrieve documents (that they urgently needed to submit for admissions to college). Students got permission to visit the rooms only after petitioning the DWO. But even after they got permission, the police and authorities threatened and misbehaved with the students, telling them only 4 students could enter at a time, and warning them, “If you all get above yourselves, and cross your limits, we will teach you a lesson.” I remonstrated with them, saying, “You didn’t say or do anything to those who attacked the hostel - but you’re threatening these boys!” They roughly asked me who she was to speak, and I replied that I was my brother’s guardian.
The ‘Ambedkar Kalyan Hostel’ is actually a hostel that needy students had ‘occupied’. The earlier hostel where they had been staying was literally falling apart from lack of maintenance - yet the Government was refusing to allot this new hostel. So students had occupied this hostel themselves. The Government had not even provided drinking water, beds, electricity. A hand-pump had been installed by students themselves after collecting ‘chanda’ amongst themselves.
These students, mostly from dalit and extremely backward BPL families, used to prepare for BA, MA courses, as well as exams for recruitment of Group ‘D’ employees. Now, after the attack, most of the 800 students have fled. Around 80, though, have stayed on risking their lives, because they know that if the hostel is vacated, they may lose it forever, since it was never legally allotted to them.
Now, the students live in fear. In my parents’ village (Kaulodihri) too, people are scared once again. On a couple of days, firing was heard by the villagers. People remain awake at night, fearing an attack.