Saturday, May 26, 2012

1996 Bathani Tola Massacre

The 1996 Bathani Tola massacre was an incident of caste-related violence in which an upper-caste militia killed 21 Dalit ("untouchables"), including women and children, in the Indian state of Bihar on 11 July 1996. The attacks were allegedly by members of the Ranvir Sena, in response to Dalit labourers' demand for wage increase.[1]

21 Dalits were slaughtered by Ranvir Sena militiamen in Bathani Tola, Bhojpur, Bihar in 11 July 1996.[2] Among the dead were 11 women, six children and three infants, who were deliberately singled out by the attackers.[3] 60 members of the Ranvir Sena reportedly descended on the village and set 12 houses on fire. Using lathis, swords and firearms, the attackers continued the onslaught for two and a half hours. The attack was reportedly in retaliation for the earlier killing of nine Bhumihars in Nandhi village, by the CPI(M-L). The conflict began when CPI(M-L) began organizing the agricultural laborers to demand the statutory daily minimum wage of Rs. 30.75. Landowners were willing to pay only Rs. 20. CPI(M-L) members convinced the laborers to refuse employment at that wage and called for an economic blockade against landowners. The attack on Bathani Tola, was an effort to weaken the resolve of CPI(M-L) cadres organizing in the village and to prevent a labor boycott on hundreds of acres of land. None of the Ranvir Sena leaders were ever arrested for the Bathani Tola massacre. [1]

Following the massacre, there were further attacks on Dalits and Labourers organized by the Ranvir Sena in Laxmanpur Bathe (1st December 1997) and Sankarbigha (January 199) in which 81 Dalits were killed. [3]

The Landlords wanted to reassert their feudal tyranny over the poor who have started becoming more vocal and by attacking the most vulnerable, women and children, they wanted to send a clear messafge that they would not allow anyone to disturb the social structure. [1]

A Ranvir Sena sympathiser, who spoke to the Hindu correspondent Shoumojit Banerjee, justified the mobilisation of the upper castes against those Naxals.[clarification needed] "The land is ours. The crops belong to us. They (the labourers) did not want to work, and moreover, hampered our efforts by burning our machines and imposing economic blockades. So, they had it coming."[3]

12th July 1996 - FIR[clarification needed] lodged against 33 persons the day after the massacre
24th March 2000 - Charges framed against 64 accused[4]
5th May 2010 - The civil court at Ara sentences three persons to death and 20 others to life imprisonment. The court acquitted 30 others for want of evidence.[4]
Ajay Singh - charged with killing 10 year old Phool Kumari - death sentenced[2]
Manoj Singh - charged with murder of 3 month old daughter of Naimuddin - death sentenced[2]
Nagendar alias Narendra Singh - charged with murder of Sanjharu and Ramratiya Devi - death sentenced[2]
17th April 2012 - The Patna High Court acquits 23 men convicted of the murders. A Division Bench of judges Navneeti Prasad Singh and Ashwani Kumar Singh cite “defective evidence” to acquit all of them. [3][2]
18th April 2012 - Bihar State SC/ST Welfare Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi told PTI in Patna that NDA led Govt (under Nitish Kumar). has decided to move to Supreme court challenging the Patna HC Order. [5]

The Counsel for the witness expressed shock at the High Court verdict and reportedly said that "sufficient evidence were at hand to uphold the judgement passed by the Ara sessions court. The Supreme Court guidelines in the event of a massacre are quite clear. The eyewitnesses need not remember all the names. And, of the six prime witnesses questioned in this case, all had conclusively pointed fingers at the persons convicted by the lower court".[2]

^ a b c Smita Narula; Human Rights Watch (Organization) (1999). Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "untouchables".. Human Rights Watch. pp. 71–. ISBN 978-1-56432-228-9. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
^ a b c d e f Shoumojit Banerjee (1996-07-11). "News / National : All accused in 1996 Bihar Dalit carnage acquitted". The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
^ a b c d Shoumojit Banerjee. "States / Other States : For residents of Bathani, it is a horror they cannot forget". The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
^ a b Shoumojit Banerjee (2010-05-14). "News / National : Death for three in Bathani Tola massacre case". The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
^ PTI (1996-07-11). "News / National : Bathani Tola case: Bihar Govt to move SC against verdict". The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-04-20.


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