With every fresh, glaring instance of feudal criminality and mockery of justice, the Nitish Government’s slogan of ‘development with justice’ is being exposed.
The latest instance is the severe repression on CPI(ML) Central Committee member and former MLA Comrade Rajaram Singh and other activists leading the struggle against the murder of a young panchayat mukhiya (head) in Aurangabad district of Bihar. On 29 March, 32-year-old Chhotu Kushwaha, an RJD-supported panchayat mukhiya, was murdered. The facts indicate that the murder was executed by a criminal gang led by ex-Ranveer Sena leader Sushil Pandey (also an accused in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre), who is known to be close to the JD(U) MLA from the Goh constituency, Ranvijay Sharma, who also has criminal antecedents and is behind bars.
What is even more notable is that the local police and administration are directly implicated in the murder. The young mukhiya had been raising his voice against the grab of gairmazarua (common land meant for redistribution among landless) by powerful landowners, one of whom is related to the local BDO. The mukhiya was murdered when returning from a visit to the BDO’s office, from where he had left, accompanied by a police constable.
The CPI(ML) had played a leading role in the resistance to the murder. A struggle front against the murder, of which the CPI(ML) is a leading constituent, is demanding a CBI enquiry into the murder, in which so many powerful people including the MLA, BDO and SHO, are implicated. Under the banner of the joint struggle front, a massive demonstration took place on 2 May at the Aurangabad DM’s office. The police launched a brutal lathicharge on the protestors, singling out former MLA Comrade Rajaram Singh for the severest assault. In the presence of the SP, Comrade Rajaram Singh was severely beaten, on the street as well as twice inside custody. 29 protestors including Comrade Rajaram Singh have been jailed.
The murders of Chhotu mukhiya and CPI(ML)’s Rohtas secretary Comrade Bhaiyyaram Yadav by JD(U) backed feudal-criminal forces are part of a larger pattern. In Aurangabad itself, the Sushil Pandey gang and JD(U) backed criminals are implicated in a series of murders of elected representatives and common people from the dalit-backward communities. The Nitish Government had already shown its true colours when it disbanded the Amir Das Commission, shelved the recommendations of the land reform commission, and allowed Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh to get bail: and the acquittal of the accused in the Bathani Tola massacre followed as a natural consequence. Meanwhile, while Brahmeshwar Singh and his team of killers are free, Bodhan Sada and nine others from the musahar community (rechristened ‘mahadalit’ by Nitish) stand sentenced to death on the weakest of evidence, in the Amausi massacre case. Earlier, in the Forbesganj police firing, the Bihar police under Nitish Kumar had shown its class and communal hatred for the poor and minorities who dare to resist powerful and corrupt land grabbers.
In this backdrop, the CPI(ML) has called for a Bihar bandh on 10 April, demanding justice for Bathani Tola and Forbesganj, Bhaiyyaram Yadav, Chhotu mukhiya, and Bodhan Sada, and protesting the repression against protestors including Comrade Rajaram Singh.
Popular resistance will continue to grow, upholding the urge for and commitment to justice and democracy – and resisting the regime of repression and injustice!
The RJD-supported mukhiya of Sonhattu panchayat in Haspura block of Aurangabad district in Bihar, Chhotu Kushwaha was shot dead on 29 March. He had been opposing the grab of gairmazarua land meant for the landless poor, and as a result of his efforts, the land was to be officially measured on 30 March. 38 decimals of gairmazarua land had been grabbed by Bindeshwari Sharma and Narayan Sharma, and the latter is related to the Haspura BDO. On 29 March, Chhotu mukhiya was called to Haspura by the BDO. On his return journey by bike, he was initially accompanied by a police constable, who however alighted from the bike on the way, and the murder happened soon after. The suspected killers are of the Sushil Pandey gang, close to the criminal JD(U) MLA Ranvijay Sharma who is in jail. Since the MLA, SP, SHO, and BDO are all implicated in the murder, we have demanded a CBI enquiry into the killing.
On 2 April, a Haspura bandh was observed on CPI(ML)’s call. The Mukhiya Sangh supported the call, and the protest meeting on the day of the bandh was addressed by former CPI(ML) MLA Comrade Rajaram Singh, and former RJD MP Kanti Singh. A huge gathering attended a Sankalp Sabha on 5 April, at which the Chhotu Mukhiya Hatya Virodhi Sangharsh Morcha (struggle front against the murder) was formed, and it was announced that if Sushil Pandey was not arrested within a month, a massive protest march would be held on 2 May.
The DM’s permission had been especially sought and taken for the 2 May procession. Yet, the police launched a brutal lathicharge, attacking not just the protestors but even common bystanders. Comrade Rajaram Singh, who is the main leader in the struggle, was especially targeted for the most severe beating, which took place in the presence of the SP. Even inside the police station, Comrade Rajaram Singh was beaten twice. Chhotu mukhiya’s wife was also beaten up and arrested, but later released. But 29 protestors, most of them CPI(ML) supporters as well as Comrade Rajaram Singh, have been jailed.
On 2 May itself, CPI(ML) protests against the brutal repression took place at Daudnagar, Arwal, Kurtha and Jehanabad. A state-wide protest day and an Aurangabad bandh called by CPI(ML) was observed on 4 May. On 5, 6 and 7 May, a 3-day dharna was held by the CPI(ML) at Patna. State Secretary Comrade Kunal visited Comrade Rajaram Singh in jail. A Bihar Bandh was then called by the party on 10 May, ‘Against Rising Injustice, Crime and Police repression, for Justice and Democracy’, highlighting the questions of the Bathani Tola verdict, murders of Comrade Bhaiyyaram and Chhotu mukhiya, the death sentence for Bodhan Sada, and the Forbesganj firing.
The May 10 Bihar Bandh called by the CPI(ML), in which the main demand was for dismissal of the DM and SP responsible for the brutal police assault on protestors against Aurangabad’s Chhotu Mukhiya, especially the attack on CPI(ML) CCM Comrade Rajaram Singh, received a very warm response. Several train routes were blockaded, and the GT Road as well as other national highways and state highways and main roads connecting district HQs with blocks, were blockaded for hours.
In the state capital, Patna, the first contingent of Bandh supporters marched from Patna Railway Station to Dakbangla Crossing, which they completely blockaded. This contingent was led by CCM Comrade KD Yadav, AIALA National President Rameshwar Prasad and General Secretary Dhirendra Jha, RYA GS Kamlesh Sharma, State Committee members Umesh Singh, Satyanarayan Prasad and others.
The main contingent led by party GS Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, PBMs Ramjatan Sharma, Nand Kishor Prasad, Amar, State Secretary Kunal, Central office secretary Prabhat Kumar, AISA State Secretary Abhyuday, and others marched from the south gate of Gandhi Maidam at 11 am and converged at Dakbangla Crossing, where a mass meeting was held, addressed by Comrade Dipankar, AISA-RYA leaders Comrades Abhyuday and Kamlesh, and other senior party leaders.
AIPWA State Secretary Shashi Yadav and Patna town committee member Murtaza Ali led a sizeable procession in the Chitkohra-Aneesabad area, which blockaded the junction for hours. Another huge procession led by AICCTU State Secretary Ranvijay and party town committee member Pannalal closed shops and markets in Kankadbad. This procession too reached Dakbangla Crossing and joined the main gathering there.
AIPWA State Joint-Secretary Anita Sinha and party town committee member Satyendra Sharma led scores of bandh supporters to blockade the Bailey Road at Ashiyana turning for two hours, holding a mass meeting there. In Patna City, CPI(ML)’s Area Committee secretary Naseem Ansari, peasant leader Shambhunath Mehta, RYA leaders Ramnarayan Singh and Suresh Sahni led a massive procession which closed down shops in the mandi area, and then blockaded Shaheed Bhagat Singh crossing.
Addressing the mass meeting at Dakbangla Crossing, Comrade Dipankar said that the successful bandh, supported by all sections of people, is a challenge to Nitish’s rule, and that the struggle to ensure justice for the victims of Forbesganj firing, Comrade Bhaiyyaram, Comrade Surendra Yadav, Mukhiya Chhotu Mushwaha, and to ensure a CBI enquiry into the Aurangabad murder and police barbarism, dismissal of the DM and SP of Aurangabad, and immediate release of the 29 jailed protestors including Comrade Rajaram Singh, and justice for Bathani Tola victims, would continue.
Scores of bandh supporters were arrested all over Patna, and including Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, State Secretary Comrade Kunal, and several PBMs and CCMs.
The Purva Express was stopped at Ara, truck traffic was completely stopped at Jehanabad, and the Patna-Gaya train line could not function. Trains were stopped at Darbhanga, Vaishali, Biharsharif, Forbesganj, Siwan, Sikta, Gaya, Kaimur and West Champaran. Huge processions stopped the functioning of Courts at Gopalganj and Jaynagar. Buses, schools, and shops remained non-functional under pressure from bandh supporters at many places all over the State.
District secretaries of Samastipur, Biharsharif, Bhabhua and CPI(ML)’s Rohtas leader Jawahar Yadav were among those arrested while blockading highways and streets, and mass arresting took place at Madhubani, West Champaran, Bhabhua, Chhapra, and Ara.
An ongoing petition appealing to the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India for justice for the victims of the Bathani Tola massacre and other massacres of the poor and oppressed in Bihar is receiving widespread support.
The appeal says, “The fact that, 16 years after this massacre, not a single person stands convicted for the brutal and barbaric slaughter of innocents, raises disturbing questions about whether the oppressed and the poor victims of massacres can expect justice in our Courts.”
It notes that “The Bihar HC acquittal comes in the wake of this political climate of patronage for the perpetrators of massacres of the poor and oppressed.”
The appeal expresses “the hope that the Supreme Court will correct the deep injustice to victims and survivors of Bathani Tola, and will take all possible measures to ensure that the perpetrators of this and other heinous massacres of the poor and oppressed in Bihar are tried and convicted.” Signatories till now include Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy, Anand Patwardhan, Uma Chakravarti, Anand Chakravarti, Amit Bhaduri, Jean Dreze, Nivedita Menon, Gautam Appa, Professor Emeritus, LSE, David Landau, anti-fascist activist in London, Cecilie Jackson, Professor of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Loius Godena, Margaret Dickinson, London-based filmmaker, Naeem Malik, human rights activist based in Birmingham, Sarbjit Johal, Nandini Sundar, ND Pancholi, Kalpana Wilson (SASG, UK), Bela Bhatia, Nirmalangshu Mukherji, SV Rajadurai, Kavita Srivastava,
PUCL, Abha Dev Habib, Manisha Sethi, Kalpana Mehta, Kirity Roy, MASUM, Sukla Sen, EKTA (Committee For Communal Amity), Ashley Tellis, Mahtab Alam, Indira Chakravarty, Dr. Padma Balasubramanian, Jyoti Punwani, Madhu Prasad, Nicolas Jaoul, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, E Rati Rao.