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Jehanabad Killings




This Battle Must be Won

The History of Bihar,for more than two decades, is replete with massacres. Massacres of rural poor of dalit castes by various landlord armies. In their desperate bid to suppress the ever growing rural poor uprising and to hold onto their caste-class privileges, the new classes of landlords and kulaks have frequently took recourse to this terror tactics as a means to terrorise the whole mass of people. Yet the massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad on the night of 1 December is a case apart and it rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence.

In all 61 persons — two thirds of whom were children, women and old persons — were butchered to death in a cold-blooded operation at the dead of night. All the victims belonged to the class of agrarian labourers and were dalits in the social hierarchy. In their struggle for socio-economic emancipation they had taken up the revolutionary banner of the CPI(ML).

The killers were men of the Ranvir Sena — an upper caste landlord army which enjoys the political backing of the BJP as well as support from a section of the RJD.

This time the target chosen was a village in Jehanabad that lies close to the districts of Bhojpur, Patna and Aurangabad. The essential purpose was to send the message across the whole of central Bihar. The time chosen was significant as the political crisis at the centre had matured and a caretaker government was in office. Thus, by effecting an upper caste mobilisation of both Bhumihars and Rajputs, it also symbolised the beginning of the political offensive by arch-reactionary forces. As reports suggest, this was first of the trilogy of massacres before the elections. The other two are planned in the districts of Rohtas and Buxar.

The whole operation was meticulously planned. Professional killers were assembled from all neighbouring districts apart from Jehanabad. To create a record and grab the international news headlines, the number of persons to be killed was predetermined with the specific targeting of women and children. For a smooth operation, a soft target was selected where people were most unsuspecting, most unprepared and thus chances of resistance was zero.

The record was indeed created not only in terms of numbers but also in the measure of brutality and cowardice. Side by side, another record was created by the media, particularly in Bihar, which excelled in hypocrisy. Since day one, Sangh Parivar propaganda machinery swung into action and the media began playing to its tune. A prominent journalist from Patna wrote in a national daily that it was the same old story of clash between Ranvir Sena and Naxalites, the only difference being that this time Naxalites were unarmed. How cleverly the cold-blooded massacre of women and children was rationalised as a routine kind of confrontation! The same journalist in subsequent writeups tried to rationalise Ranvir Sena as an expression of peasant’s anguish against indiscriminate Naxalite violence. This typical attitude was common to the entire upper caste journalist fraternity barring a few exceptions. The long list of upper caste villages supposedly under the threat of Naxalite revenge were boldly displayed in newspapers and cock-and-bull stories of PWG squads entering into Jehanabad were dished out. The news analysis that began with Laxmanpur-Bathe invariably ended up with concern over general deterioration of law and order and demands for action against Naxalite extremists who dare to run parallel governments and even attack the police. The news of protests were underplayed whereas the fast by BJP leaders and Vajpayee’s visit was overplayed. All this was a well-orchestrated move to divert public attention from Ranvir Sena, from its organic links with the BJP and pressurise the state administration to divert its operations against the victims themselves.

It was the age-old story of pen against people with the only difference that this time the pen was directly attached to the bayonet! It goes without saying that the state machinery was too eager to oblige the ‘pen-killers’ and after a token operation against Ranvir Sena — more on paper than on the field — the entire thrust has been diverted against people’s forces on the pretext of preventing any revenge.

Still the machinations of the whole range of mercenaries is not the last word in the rural poor’s march to liberty. The protest is growing fast and assuming larger dimensions.

On 5 December, the left and democratic alliance of 17 parties called for a Bihar Bandh. Incidentally the bandh was the first one after the Supreme Court’s infamous verdict imposing a blanket ban on all bandhs. The bandh was supported by a host of other democratic forces and it was an astounding success. The massacre was condemned by progressive public opinion all across the country and even abroad. Many prominent intellectuals joined the protest.

The massacre has generated immense class hatred among rural poor, strengthened their determination to close their ranks, and led to the growing realisation of going over to offensive actions as the best way of defence. The Party’s rally in Arwal proved to be a grand success. Battle cries against Ranvir Sena rent the air. Thousands of young people were seething with anger and went back with the resolve to take the battle to the enemy’s own ground.

With the advent of Ranvir Sena, the class war is no longer confined to this or that region of Central Bihar any more. It is engulfing the entire central Bihar. This has also created conditions for forging a broader class unity, a unity cemented by blood. The class war is also making irrelevant the false god of social justice, Laloo Yadav, who in his earlier incarnation had encouraged the growth of Ranvir Sena as a Machiavellian plot to wipe out our Party. In fact, it has turned into a Frankenstein for him and is threatening his own social base in the changed political environment of BJP’s growing political offensive. This has indeed created a favourable condition to effect a new social equation on our party’s own initiative. The party has intensified its offensive in various forms and in Bhojpur in particular certain actions, prior to and after the Party Congress, has helped unleash the initiative at the grassroots.

The challenge of Ranvir Sena, the perpetrators of the ‘national shame’, has to be met. In the concrete context of Bihar, the interests of the revolutionary peasant movement as well as the national responsibility of halting the onslaught of saffron army has merged into one and the same task — wiping out Ranvir Sena.

The rural proletariat has been shedding blood for its socio-economic emancipation and political liberty. It is our duty to organise people to avenge the death of their class brethren and for that we shall have to undertake the widest exposure campaign particularly in view of media hostility; do away with all sectarian attitudes and unite all positive social sections and political forces and raise our preparations to a higher level to deal a crushing blow to this army of butchers, of cowards. This battle can surely be won and must be won. This is the call of human progress, democracy and true nationalism. This is the call of the modern times.

‘A Carnage for the Entire World to Know!’
Batan Bigha, a dalit Tola (hamlet) of Laxamanpur-Bathe village in Jehanabad district, lies on the banks of Sone river that forms the boundary between Bhojpur and Jehanabad. On the other side of Sone lie villages like Barki Kharaon (Bathani Tola) of Sahar block which has been a centre of Ranvir Sena activities. Batan Bigha is mostly inhabited by dalit communities like Mallah, Rajwar, Paswan, Pasi and Nai. Some of the families in the Tola were supporters of Party Unity and some others were supporters of our Party. But in no case was the Tola or the village of Bathe, a stronghold of PU or CPI(ML), nor did we have any armed presence in the village. In that respect, the Tola provided an ideal soft target for the Sena. What makes the massacre more gruesome is that unlike the earlier big massacre by Ranvir Sena at Bathani Tola, there was no feud between the Bhumihar landlords and the dalits and agrarian labourers over the question of land, wages or social dignity.

On the night of 1 December, two big boatfuls of armed Ranvir Sena men crossed over from Sahar to the banks near the Tola. The two boatmen who ferried the killers were gagged. Later, after ferrying back the armed band, the two were killed. On their way to the Tola the gang came across five fishermen who were fishing in the river. To ensure that ther could not raise an alarm, the fishermen were gagged and hacked to death showing the high degree of prior planning that went into executing the massacre.

On crossing over they were joined by another group of Sena men from nearby villages. The entire armed band, comprising about one hundred and fifty men, then stealthily proceeded to the Tola and surrounded it from all sides. Showing no haste for their killing spree, they divided themselves in groups of ten and first entered all the houses. And then without waiting for the helpless victims to wake up, opened fire and gunned down 54 people in all. Including the five fishermen and the two boatmen, the killer Sena’s total ‘score’ for that night reached 61. This ‘score’ too was pre-planned. A few days before the carnage, Birendra Singh, a Sena man and resident of Bathe, was heard in the nearby Parasi village that Sena would enact such a carnage that the entire world would know. Such was the devilish plan of the Sena. In fact, the firing was stopped after the killers estimated that they had piled 70 corpses. The injured ones lying among the corpses were taken to be dead. At the end of the bloodbath, the Ranvir Sena’s ‘score’ card read 5 injured and 61 dead including 27 women (8 of them pregnant) and 17 children (the youngest being 1 year old) apart from dalits, five members of the Koeri community were also killed. Some of the families of the Tola were totally wiped out. Many corpses had no claimants.

A day earlier on 30 November, a meeting of the Sena was held at the house of one Dharma Sharma in the neighbouring Kamta village. Apart from Sena men from Kamta and Laxmanpur-Bathe, the meeting was attended by men from the nearby villages of Belsar, Chanda, Sohasa, Kharsa, Koyal Bhupat, Basantpur, Parshurampur etc. The meeting also elected the Sena chief for the district. The prior information of an impending ‘mega-massacre’ had reached our Party sources in Bhojpur. From the information available to us, it was perceived that the attack would take place in Bhojpur. Likewise our vigil and preparedness were stepped up in Bhojpur. Our apprehensions of a Sena offensive was duly conveyed to the police and the administration in Bhojpur but like in the case prior to the Bathani Tola massacre, no action of any sort was taken in Bhojpur. The role of the police and administration becomes suspect from the fact that in Jehanabad, they took virtually no action despite being fully aware of the Sena’s huge meeting on the night of 30 November at Kamta village specially when just across the Sone, in Bhojpur, a major attack was perceived by the Ranvir Sena.

Anger overpowered the grief of the survivors. Till 3 December they refused to cremate the dead bodies. When the local RJD MLA, Ravindra Singh approached them with the advice to cremate the corpses, he was promptly chased away by the villagers. On 3 December, Rabri Devi along with Maqbool Dar, Deputy Home Minister of the Union Government, flew down to Bathe to console the victims. Like the ex-chief minister Laloo Yadav, she too flew down to offer hefty compensation but still the villagers refused to be purchased off.

Later, on the same day Comrade Vinod Mishra, along with CPI(ML) leaders Rajaram Singh, Mahendra Singh and KD Yadav visited the carnage site. It was only after they went from house to house to see all the victims that the villagers started lifting the corpses. All the corpses were then brought to the banks of Sone where they were cremated.

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Last updated: February 22, 2000.