Dalit Atrocities Expose the Hollowness of the ‘Social Justice’ Claims of Successive Governments in Bihar

Bihar has been shaken by a series of atrocities against Dalits – atrocities that have exposed the ‘acche din’ and ‘Sushasan’ boasts of BJP and JD(U) respectively. A resurgent BJP in Bihar has emboldened the feudal forces and Ranveer Sena elements, that the JD(U) rule since 2005 had anyway failed to bring to justice.

The Chief Minister of Bihar, Jeetan Ram Majhi, recently expressed his shock that a temple he had visited in Madhubani had been washed after the visit, presumably to ‘purify’ it after the polluting presence of the CM who is from the most oppressed mahadalit caste. If indeed the temple was washed with such a purpose, it is a highly demeaning atrocity against Dalits, and a case must be filed against the temple authorities under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Some of the CM’s own fellow Ministers have suggested that the CM was misinformed, and perhaps this is why no case has yet been filed against the temple authorities.

Whether the Chief Minister himself was in fact a victim of such an atrocity in this particular case or not, the denial of entry into temples and other humiliating atrocities and organized violence against Dalits continues to be an ugly reality in Bihar. And this raises the unavoidable question – isn’t the persistence and virulence of such atrocities against the most oppressed castes and labouring people, a telling comment on the character of the 25 years of rule by Governments headed by RJD and JD(U)?

Eviction of Dalits in Gaya and Nawada

Even as the Bihar CM waxed eloquent in the London School of Economics about the ‘Bihar Model of Development’ promoted by the JD(U) Government, hundreds of mahadalits of the Pura village in the CM’s own home district Gaya, were forced to flee after the murder of mahadalit Arjun Majhi, to intimidate his brother Vakil Majhi and prevent the latter from filing nominations in the elections for the post of the President to the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Society [PACS]. The mahadalits of Pura village, Tikari police station, Gaya, were forced to flee en masse, fearing a massacre by strongmen from the dominant community. The police failed to arrest most of the named accused in Arjun Majhi’s murder, and made no move to arrest those who openly threatened to massacre the mahadalits. What does it say about the JD(U) Government with a mahadalit Chief Minister, when a dalit man’s kin can be killed to punish him for wanting to file nominations for an election, and the dalits in the CM’s own home district continue to face the very real fear of a massacre?

The Bihar Chief Minister called upon the villagers to avenge Arjun Majhi’s murder by voting to elect Majhi’s brother to the PACS post – oblivious to the fact that Majhi’s brother has not been able to file nominations in time due to the intimidation, and the evicted mahadalit villagers lived in terror of a massacre if they dared to vote!

In early September, again, around 150 mahadalit families fled their homes in Nawada district and took shelter in a government school when their houses were ransacked and set on fire by dominant caste villagers. The violence took place after some dominant caste people under the influence encroached into the marriage function of a dalit and began sexually harassing dalit girls, leading to protests by dalits.

On 8th October 2014, 4 minor girls and 2 women, all ragpickers from the Mahadalit community of Dumaria village, visited a scrap dealer in Kurmuri village of Bhojpur. The scrap dealer, Neelnidhi Singh, a known former Ranveer Sena area commander, held them captive at gunpoint and along with two associates, raped the women. It was only after a protracted and militant protest that the local police and administration was forced to file an FIR against the accused and take action.

And more recently, a 13-year-old Dalit boy was burnt to death in Mohanpur village in Rohtas district after his goat strayed into the paddy field of an upper caste villager Sanjay Singh. And in Sitanabad (Saharsa), a mahadalit labourer Kari Sada was shot by dominant forces when he asked for his pending wages.

Government’s and Dominant Parties’ Complicity With Feudal Violence

The conduct of the Bihar Government over these episodes today underlines how Bihar Governments, police and administration, from the Laloo era to the present JD(U) rule, have colluded with the perpetrators of organized violence against the Dalits and oppressed castes. The Laoo-Rabri regimes, and the regimes headed by Nitish Kumar and now Jeetan Ram Majhi, have paid lip service to ‘mahadalit uplift’, while in reality they have made a series of unholy compromises with the feudal forces on a material as well as a political plane. And the BJP Lok Sabha victories have lent a new, vicious edge to the feudal forces and Ranveer Sena elements.

In the 1990s, the police and administration under the Laloo and Rabri Governments, failed to prevent the Bathani Tola, Laxmanpur Bathe and other massacres, and then proceeded to scuttle evidence in order to protect the Ranveer Sena perpetrators. Laloo Yadav openly declared his willingness to collude with the Ranveer Sena in order to counter the assertion of the poor and oppressed who rallied around the CPI(ML).

When the JD(U) allied with the BJP came to power, Nitish Kumar’s first act was to disband the Amir Das Commission that was on the point of submitting the findings of its probe into the political mentors of the Ranveer Sena. The motivation was obvious – those political mentors included a large number of top JD(U) and BJP leaders, as well as some prominent RJD and Congress leaders. Nitish Kumar came to power on the promise of land reforms, including homestead land for the landless oppressed castes, and safeguarding the rights of sharecroppers. But, in another blatant act of appeasement of the feudal forces, the Nitish Government refused to implement the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission it has itself appointed!

The serial acquittals of the Ranveer Sena members convicted for the Bathani Tola, Bathe and other massacres, also exposed how the Laloo-Rabri and Nitish regimes alike had acted to protect the perpetrators and perpetuate the injustice against the dalits and oppressed castes. The Nitish Government further exposed its true character when it allowed the Ranveer Sena supporters to run amok and unleash violence on Dalits and on public property after the killing of the Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh. On Independence Day last year, Dalits in Baddi village in Rohtas were attacked by feudal forces. The Nitish Government refused to order a CBI enquiry into the murders of mukhiya Chhotu Kushwaha and CPI(ML) leader Bhaiyyaram Yadav by feudal forces.

Prior to the 1990s, the feudal forces openly enjoyed political hegemony in Bihar. For the past 25 years, the RJD and JD(U) regimes have promised ‘social justice’ and ‘uplift’ of the oppressed castes and a change in the feudal order. The fact is that, behind the mask of ‘social justice’, these Governments have openly made common cause and compromises with the feudal forces. The landless, oppressed poor of Bihar however, continue to wage a courageous battle for dignity and justice. The martyrdom of Arjun Majhi and the struggles of the women of Dumariya will provide a renewed impetus for the downtrodden of Bihar to write their own script of social emancipation.

Sustained Struggle for Justice

State-wide protests Against Tikari Atrocities

Immediately after the murder, a CPI(ML) team visited the Pura village and the Tikari block, where Arjun Manjhi was murdered. The team noted that after the murder and subsequent intimidation, several mahadalit families of the Pura village had fled from the village fearing their lives. The team visited these families who are currently sheltering along with their children in Tikari. Gaya district secretary and state committee member Com. Niranjan Kumar, Tikari block secretary Pulendra Kumar, Akhilesh Paswan, Sadavriksh Manjhi, Ramji Ram, and Rohan Yadav met the victims’ families.

The enquiry team has stated that this attack on the mahadalit musahar caste by feudal forces in Pura village is a desperate attempt to restrain them from participating in the electoral process.

9 persons have been named as accused in this incident. These people started pressurising the mahadalits to take back the case, but when they refused, the mahadalits were threatened with mass carnage, due to which the entire village has come and camped in the Tikari block.

The CPI(ML) gheraoed the Tikari SDO and demanded immediate rehabilitation of the displaced people of the village, a compensation of 10 lakhs plus government employment for the victim’s family, as well as postponement of the PACS elections till the mahadalits are able to feel free of intimidation and participate fully with fear in the entire election process. CPI(ML) organized a state-wide protest throughout Bihar on these issues on 28 September. A ‘Tikari bandh’ was also observed on this date and a March in Tikari on 10th October.

Protest demonstrations were organized in Gaya city and its different blocks. In Masauri (Patna rural) thousands of poor burnt the chief minister’s effigy in protest against this atrocity on mahadalits. Protest demonstrations were also held at Paliganj, Bihata, Maner, Fatuha, and other places. Protest marches were organized at Arwal, Jehanabad, Samastipur, Nawada, Bhojpur, Siwan, and many other places.

Against gang rape in Kurmuri

A CPI(ML) fact-finding team consisting of AIPWA secretary Meena Tiwari, Bihar RYA President Raju Yadav, former Ara MP Rameshwar Prasad, AIPWA state President Saroj Chaubey and AIPWA leaders Indu Singh and Shobha Mandal visited the Dumaria village as well as Ara town on 11 October and met the victims of gang rape, and their family members. According to this fact-finding team, the main accused, Neelnidhi Singh is not just a former Ranveer Sena area commander but is also known to enjoy the support of Ara MP RK Singh (from the BJP) and Tarari MLA Sunil Pandey from the JD(U). As a result, the police officials in Tarari as well as the Ara district administration dilly-dallied in taking any action against him, until CPI(ML) leaders and activists intervened and public pressure was mounted. Though the incident took place on 8 October, an official complaint was lodged only after 24 hours, and the medical tests of the victims were done only on 10 October 2014. The local administration and police also tried to tamper with the evidence and the witnesses, and therefore, CPI(ML) has been demanding the suspension of the Ara SP and DM, and the removal of the Tarari police station in-charge. The 3 accused have now been arrested.

This incident points to the sense of impunity and boldness that feudal forces and Ranveer Sena elements have been displaying in the wake of a BJP victory at the centre and the patronage/appeasement by JD(U)-BJP and now JD(U) Govt. in Bihar.

Demand to Reinstate Amir Das Commission

The recent eviction of mahadalits in Gaya and the attack on Dalits on Independence Day at Baddi last year have all been warning signals. And Kurmuri shows starkly how Ranveer Sena men who went scot-free, continue to think they can get away with rape and atrocities against Dalits. If action had been taken against Neelnidhi Singh in previous, pending cases, then he would not have been free to indulge in this latest heinous crime. The need of the hour therefore is to force the reluctant governments at the Centre and in Bihar to restore the Amir Das Commission and to ensure an early tabling of its report.

CPI(ML) has launched a spirited statewide movement in Bihar, demanding justice for the rape survivors of the Kurmuri violence, immediate removal of the in-charge of the Tarari police station, immediate suspension of the local DM and SP, and immediate reinstatement of the Amir Das commission. CPI(ML) called for a Bhojpur bandh and Bihar-wide protests on 13th October 2014 against the gang-rape. On 13 October, around 200 AISA-RYA activists marched in protest on the streets of Ara. The market in Ara town as well as the university premises remained closed. AISA-RYA activists led by Bihar RYA President Raju Yadav, Bihar RYA joint secretary Manoj Manzil and AISA Bihar state secretary Ajit Kushwaha also organized a ‘Rail Chakka Jaam’ at the Ara railways station, which lasted for some hours and disrupted the Patna-Mughal Sarai railway line.

Simultaneously, CPI(ML) activists staged a road block on NH-30 near the Ara bus stop for hours together. Traffic was also blocked at Fatehpur, Jethwar and Kumhari in Tarari. Massive protest marches were held by CPI(ML) activists at Charpokhri, Piro, Sandesh, Sahar and other parts of Ara. In Jagdishpur, CPI(ML) activists were arrested for protesting.

Protests against the Kurmuri gang rapes and against the growing feudal violence in the state were organized by CPI(ML) in different parts of Bihar. In Patna city, a protest march began from the Patna radio station. In Patna rural too, protests were organised in Masaudhi, Naubatpur, Dulhijan Bazaar, Paliganj, Vikram, Bihta, Dhanrua, Phulwari Shareef, Maner and Phatuha. In Jehanabad, more than 500 activists registered a militant protest at the DM office. The protestors gheraoed the Jehanabad DM office for hours.

In Arwal, 500 CPI(ML) activists marched on the streets in protest, and organized a protest meeting within the Arwal block premises. Protests were held in Siwan town, Darauli, Guthni, Aandar and Nautan in Siwan, as well as in Nasriganj, Karakat, Vikramganj and Tilauthu in Rohtas, in Dumrau, Kesath, Sonbarsa and Navanagar areas of Buxar district, and in Darbhanga, Purnea, Betia, Muzzafarpur and Bhagalpur.

In solidarity with the ongoing struggle for justice in Bhojpur, the CPI(ML) and AIPWA organized protests in different parts of the country on 13th October 2014. In Delhi, a protest demonstration was held at Bihar Bhawan in Delhi. In Tamil Nadu, a demonstration against Bhojpur gang rapes was held in Coimbatore on 14th October at the gate of the Pricol factory. Hundreds of Pricol workers joined the protest. On the previous day too, on 13th October 2014, the AICCTU had held a protest at the Pricol factory gate against violence on women.

In Uttar Pradesh, the AIPWA organized protests in Devaria, Balia, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Lakhimpur Kheeri and Sitapur districts. In Devaria and Sitapur, AIPWA protested at the district headquarters, led by AIPWA state secretary Geeta Pandey and district secretary Sarojini respectively. AIPWA leaders submitted appeals to the President, demanding justice for the gang rape victims in Bhojpur and immediate reinstatement of the Amir Das commission, to the district in-charges at various district headquarters in Uttar Pradesh.

Nyay Andolan

Movement for Justice Against Escalating Feudal Violence

The hopes which the oppressed and marginalised sections of society had placed in Chief Minister Jitan Ram Majhi (who belongs to the mahadalit community) have been belied by the spate of recent atrocities.

Led by the CPI(ML), the rural poor and women in Bihar have registered sharp protest against this unholy attempt to crush the dignity of the poor and their aspirations for justice and democracy. The protests included a march in Tikari on 10 October against the Pura incident, Bhojpur bandh on 13 October against the Kurmuri gang rape, Nyay march in the capital Patna on 17 October, and March in Dumariya on 18 October. The same day a people’s protest meeting was organized at Dumariya village which is the home of the gang rape victim. A bandh in Rohtas was also organized in Rohtas against the burning alive of Sai Ram.

During the 17 October Nyay march in Patna, CPI(ML) leaders as well as CPI-M, SUCI, people’s rights movements, and journalists participated and called for a united struggle against injustice. The march started at 12 pm from Gandhi Maidan with thousands of people and moved towards the R block crossroads, increasing in strength as it proceeded, led by CPI(ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, State secretary Kunal, CCW member Com. Ram Jatan Sharma, former MP Rameshwar Prasad, AIPWA General secretary Meena Tiwari, ABKMS national General secretary Com. Rajaram Singh, AIPWA State President Saroj Choubey, JNUSU secretary Com. Chintu, and others. CPI(M) leader Com. Sarvoday Sharma, SUCI state committee member Indradev Rai, journalist Nivedita Shakeel, Ashish from NAPM, social activist Sudha Varghese and others participated in the march.

The meeting organized at R block was presided over by Com. Rajaram and conducted by Com. Kamlesh Sharma.

During the Nyay march, the demand for resettling the families displaced by landlords and courts was raised strongly. Lahsuna (Masaudhi, Patna), Mauri (Paliganj, Patna), Belaur (Udvantnagar, Bhojpur), Bagahi (Jehanabad), Lohanipur and Bhanwarpokhar (Patna Nagar), are some examples. Taking support from the High Court, feudal razed the houses of the poor with bulldozers in Anua (Karpi, Arwal).

While massacre perpetrators get acquitted, 14 innocent people are serving life imprisonment for the last 13 years under TADA in the Bhadasi (Arwal district) case. For lack of proper medical treatment Mahangu Chowdhury (2005), Madan Singh (2007), and Sohrai Chowdhury (2013) have died in jail. Popular Arwal leader Shahchand Mukhiya (72 years) is ill and admitted in PMCH. Churaman Bhagat, Baleshwar Chowdhury, Laxman Sao, Jagdish Yadav, and Tribhuvan Sharma have also become old and ailing, but the release of innocents is a non-issue for the powers that be.

On 18 October, large numbers participated in the march from the Ara Party office to Dumariya, protesting against the Kurmuri rape incident. At the Jan Pratirodh Sabha (people’s protest meeting) in Dumariya, thousands of mahadalits, poor, and women joined in the demand for immediate punishment to the rapists. As the march, including hundreds of motorcyclists proceeded from Ara town, more and more people joined in and the road passing through the district became a sea of red flags. Prior to the meeting, ML leaders met the victim’s family. The meeting was addressed by Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, former MP Rameshwar Prasad, AIPWA general secretary Meena Tiwari, AIPWA state President Saroj Choubey, popular people’s leader from Bhojpur Com. Sudama Prasad, RYA State President Raju Yadav, State joint secretary Manoj Manjil, Qayamuddin, AISA leader Rachna Singh, and others. The meeting was presided over by Com. Kamta Prasad Singh. The protesters demanding punishment for the rapists displayed the anger against injustice for which Bhojpur is famous. Several leaders including CPI(ML) state secretary Kunal, Bhojpur district Secretary Com. Jawahar Singh, and PB member Com. Amar Singh.

Com. Dipankar said that the raised morale of feudal-criminals is not a matter of chance. Their morale has received a boost after the BJP victory and formation of the Modi government at the Centre and they are now attacking mahadalits, poor, women, and minorities without fear. He cautioned the feudal-criminal forces that they should not make the mistake of considering Bihar as their fiefdom.

Targeting the JD (U) he said that the JD (U) is no less responsible for encouraging these feudal-criminal forces which have become fearless and more offensive because of political-administrative protection.

Com. Dipankar said that the “grand alliance” in the name of stopping the BJP is nothing but a hoax. Today, when the JD U) and the RJD have come together, the people of Bihar are asking whether the Kurmuri and Pura incidents have not brought out the necessity of reinstating the Amir Das commission. Will Lalu and Nitish reinstate it? Will they implement land reforms? Will they stand up for the rights of farmers? He said that these forces can do no good to Bihar. The poor of Bihar have fought to obtain their rights. We have to rely on our unity and our struggle to achieve victory.

Political Resolutions of the Nyay March

1. Arjun Majhi’s murder and subsequent displacement of the entire mahadalit tola in Pura (Tikari, Gaya), the gang rape in Kurmuri (Tarari, Bhojpur), the barbaric burning alive of Sai Ram in Mohanpur (Rohtas) and other such incidents of persecution of mahadaits, poor and women have horrified the justice-loving democratic citizens of Bihar. Today 17 October 2014 through this march against feudal-criminal forces which seek to disrupt social peace and harmony, we demand that the Bihar government put an immediate stop to such rising incidents of violence and oppression.

2. The political and administrative protection given to the feudal-criminal forces have emboldened them in their offences. The Amir Das Commission was constituted to put a stop to the carnages perpetrated by the Ranvir Sena and to identify their political protectors, but the Commission was dissolved just as it was about to submit its report. The Pura and Kurmuri incidents underline the necessity of reinstating the Commission so that the perpetrators and their protectors may be taught a lesson. Through today’s march we demand the reinstatement of the Amir das Commission so that the convicts in the carnages and their political protectors get their due punishment.

3. The anti-poor face of the government has been unmasked at Pura as well as Kurmuri. After the killing of Arjun Majhi, if the administration had shown even the slightest concern for the safety of the poor, the entire tola would not have been forced to leave the village. Similarly at Kurmuri despite information, it took 24 hours for the FIR to be registered and 48 hours for the medical investigation. Thus attempts were made to destroy evidence. The Gandhi maidan incident also shows that high authorities have no concern for the people. Therefore we demand that the DM and SP be held accountable in such incidents and stringent action be taken against them.

4. Pressure from the protest struggle enabled the mahadalits of Pura to return to their village but mahadalits displaced by feudal forces in many other villages are still unable to return to their native soil. . Lahsuna (Masaudhi, Patna), Mauri (Paliganj, Patna), Belaur (Udvantnagar, Bhojpur), Bagahi (Jehanabad), Lohanipur and Bhanwarpokhar (Patna Nagar), are some examples. Taking support from the High Court, feudal razed the houses of the poor with bulldozers in Anua (Karpi, Arwal). We demand that all poor families displaced by feudal-dominant forces through support from the High Court as well as urban poor displaced in the name of ‘beautification’ be resettled.

5. On the one hand the culprits kept getting acquitted, while on the other hand 14 innocent people are serving life imprisonment for the last 13 years under TADA in the Bhadasi (Arwal district) case. For lack of proper medical treatment Mahangu Chowdhury (2005), Madan Singh (2007), and Sohrai Chowdhury (2013) have died in jail. Popular Arwal leader Shahchand Mukhiya (72 years) is ill and admitted in PMCH. Churaman Bhagat, Baleshwar Chowdhury, Laxman Sao, Jagdish Yadav, and Tribhuvan Sharma have also become old and ailing, but the release of innocents is a non-issue for the powers that be. We demand that the government release all TADA prisoners without delay.

6. A march at Kurmuri has been invoked on 18 October 2014 to protest against the Kurmuri gang rape. On the same day a bandh has been invoked at Rohtas to protest against the burning alive of Sai Ram. We appeal to Left-democratic Parties and justice and democracy- loving people to participate and make these programmes successful and come together in a united struggle against atrocities on mahadalits, poor, women, and minorities.

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