On 16th April, 2012 the Patna High Court acquitted 23 people who were convicted by a lower court (i.e. Ara Sessions Court in May 2010) in the gruesome Bathani Tola massacre case, thus indicating travesty of the country’s criminal justice system. 21 dalits and muslims including women and children were butchered in broad daylight by the caste militia-Ranvir Sena in Bihar's Bhojpur district on 11 July, 1996. The main culprit, Brahmeshwar Singh, chief of the outlawed Ranvir Sena was murdered on 1 June, 2012 which led to the sudden flare-up in Ara. Supporters of BJP and upper caste Bhumihars went berserk following his death, damaging public and private property.
A National Convention entitled Justice for Bathani Tola 1996-Punish the Guilty was organized by 'Citizens for Justice for Bathani Tola' on 15 July, 2012 at the Constitution Club to commemorate the Bathani Tola anniversary in Delhi. It was held a day before the hearing of the petition in the Supreme Court against the Patna High Court verdict. The Convention was addressed by the survivors of the Bathani Tola massacre as well as students from Ara’s dalit hostel who faced ire from the supporters of Ranvir Sena and BJP after the death of Brahmeshwar Singh. A report on the witch-hunt of minority youth at Darbhanga was also presented at the Convention.
Kavita Krishnan, Member of the Central Committee, CPI (ML) Liberation welcomed the participants of the Convention and introduced the young filmmakers–Kundan et al who created a documentary on Bathani Tola massacre. She recalled what the Ranvir Sena said about the killings: "We kill children because they will grow up to become Naxalites. We kill women because they will give birth to Naxalites."
Uma Chakravarti, noted historian said that a serious meeting has been held to ponder over the Patna High Court’s decision to acquit the Bathani Tola murderers. She recalled the Kilvenmani massacre in Tamil Nadu in 1969 in which a group of 42 striking Dalit (untouchable) village labourers (who were demanding for higher wages) were murdered by henchmen, allegedly sent by their landlords. However, those responsible for the murders were acquitted by the Tamil Nadu High Court later. After the reversal of the Sessions Court’s decision by Tamil Nadu High Court, the landlords involved in Kilvenmani massacre were released but some of them got killed in revenge attacks later.
Naeemuddin Ansari an eyewitness to the Bathani Tola massacre and family member of the victims killed by Ranvir Sena said that the incident took place in broad daylight at 2.00 pm on 11 July, 1996 [See: Back to Bathani Tola-Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta, Frontine, Volume 29, Issue 12, 16-29 June, 2012, http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2912/stories/20120629291203200.htm]. Following the riots by Ranvir Sena and BJP supporters after the murder of Brahmeshwar Singh, Chief Minister of Bihar called a Sewa Yatra, thus, avoiding the atrocities done on dalits and muslims, he alleged. Though he applied for arms license in 2008 so as to protect himself from further attacks by upper caste militia, till date he has not received it.
Shabbir, a victim from Ara’s dalit hostel (Ambedkar Kalyan Hostel), said that Ranvir Sena and BJP supporters attacked dalit students at the morning hours after the murder of Brahmeshwar Singh-chief of Ranvir Sena. Bhojpur police was informed about the attack but the administration expressed its inability to help and instead asked the students to run away from the hostel. All the necessary items were stolen by the attackers. Locked rooms left behind were broken. Dalit students were beaten mercilessly. No water and electricity services were arranged by the administration after the incident.
Shivprakash Ranjan, a student of Ambedkar Kalyan Hostel and AISA supporter, said that the cycle-stand near the hostel was burnt and 40-50 cycles were destroyed completely. 3 bikes and a jeep were burnt by the Ranvir Sena supporters during the riot following Brahmeshwar Singh’s murder. Police asked the students to leave the hostel for 4-5 months. It seemed from the behavior of the police personnels deployed that they were siding with the attackers. Due to the intervention of AISA, the SDO could be met. From 11th June onwards, staying inside the hostel restarted and from 18th June police force was posted in the dalit hostel. The CM declined to meet the AISA leadership [Read: Attack on Dalit Hostels in Ara by Ranveer Sena Goons Exposes Nitish’s Secular Posturing-Shivprakash Ranjan, http://www.cpiml.org/liberation/year_2012/july_2012/feature.html]. The SC/ST Welfare Minister Jitanram Majhi was also met by the AISA delegation. The District Magistrate refused to take any action and said that media cooked up the story of attacks on dalit students.
Retired JNU professor Tulsi Ram said that Bathani Tola has become a symbol of atrocities on dalits. It was retired judge Justice Sawant of the Supreme Court who said that law in India is not strong enough to punish the guilty. The justice system in India is hindu-ized. Chanakya’s arthashastra is too harsh on dalits and has provisions for the maximum amount of punishment for them. 80-85 percent of people who are hanged are dalits since they cannot afford justice. It is not external enemies but insiders who are responsible for murdering the countrymen. In BJP ruled states, human rights abuse is rampant for example Chhattisgarh [See: Human shield review after ‘mix-up’-Nishit Dholabhai, The Telegraph, 5 July, 2012, http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120705/jsp/nation/story_15693320.jsp]. Economic empowerment of dalits has not taken place. A strange mixture of religion and violence could be noticed in the Ara attack on dalit students since both Ranvir Sena and BJP supporters took part in it. Anti-Buddhist wave got started in India by discovering newer Gods and Goddesses who were weoponized too. Such Gods and Goddesses acted as symbols of violence. People who believe in such Gods tend to be more violent. Dalits are attacked since they are the most vulnerable in the caste structure.
Retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sacchar mentioned about the Arwal massacre in which police opened fire on a peaceful mass meeting killing 23 and injuring dozens [See: A Fact Finding Report On Arwal Massacre, http://www.cscsarchive.org:8081/MediaArchive/liberty.nsf/(docid)/BA06C62226979E26E5256A47002A0D92]. He said that during the last 25 years, India has not made much progress. It is, in fact, building a worst kind of society. There were many officials and political parties who denounced the murder of Brahmeshwar Singh. But when Bathani Tola incident took place not much public sympathy came into being. Justice Sacchar promised legal help to the families of the victims.
Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy from JNU said that in the Bathani Tola massacre both Indian Constitution and Social Justice were attacked. The killing of Chandrashekhar, a student leader from JNU, took place in a similar fashion in Siwan in March 1997. Victims of Bathani Tola have not yet received justice. Democracy in India can, thus, be questioned. Attacks on dalit students happened in a state whose CM says that he is with the lower caste. Despite the presence of such a CM, Ranvir Sena supporters dared to attack dalit students in Ara after the death of Brahmeshwar Singh. Those hanged are mostly dalits since they have no recommendations and they lack money to afford good lawyers. In India only the rich can afford justice. Naxalism grew as a result of social injustice. Those taking up the causes of dalits before elections have turned out to be traitors and they now support MNCs. He demanded that people’s representatives should visit Bathani Tola. Bad governance has spread across the country. Fight against injustice shall continue.
Prof. Nandini Sundar from Department of Sociology Delhi School of Economics congratulated the people for continuing their fight against feudalism despite getting a setback decision from the Patna High Court. She said that tribals faced a similar situation in Chhattisgarh.
Vineet Tiwari who was part of the PUCL group that wrote a report on Amousi massacre, which took place on 1 October 2009 spoke in detail about the incident [A Fact Finding Report on Amousi Carnage in Khagaria District, http://otheraspect.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/a-fact-finding-report-on-amousi-carnage-in-khagaria-district/].
Simpson whose brother-in-law was killed in the Paramakudi massacre inside a police van said that the High Court of Tamil Nadu acquitted the murderers of Kilvenmani massacre that took place in 1969 due to lack of evidence. He said that in India dalits are victims of caste oppression. Economic status of dalits could not be changed despite bhakti movement. Their economic status has remained the same since centuries. Successive Governments had been against land reforms. He asked for successful land reforms, implementation of land ceilings along with land redistribution and joining of land cooperatives by beneficiaries of land reforms.
Justice for Bathani Tola massacre victims demanded-Mohammad Ali, The Hindu, 16 July, 2012, http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/article3644998.ece
Bathani Tola and the Cartoon Controversy by Anand Teltumbde, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLVII, No. 22, 02 June, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/rural-news-update/bathani-tola-and-the-cartoon-controversy-by-anand-teltumbde-15359.html
Convention Demands for Victims of Bathani Tola Massacre, Sanhati, 2 May, 2012, http://sanhati.com/articles/5009/
Ranvir Sena chief murder poses challenge to Nitish Kumar-Smita Gupta, The Hindu, 2 June, 2012, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article3481805.ece
No gentlemen in this army-Ashwani Kumar, The Hindu, 6 June, 2012,
Brahmeshwar Singh's murder: Bihar braces for retaliatory killings-Pranava K Chaudhary & Rajiv Nayan Agrawal, The Times of India, 2 June, 2012,
3 given death, 20 life imprisonment for killing 21 Dalits in 1996, The Times of India, 12 May, 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/3-given-death-20-life-imprisonment-for-killing-21-Dalits-in-1996/articleshow/5920990.cms
Three get life for killing former JNU student leader, CNN-IBN, 23 March, 2012, http://ibnlive.in.com/news/3-get-life-for-killing-former-jnu-student-leader/242059-3.html