Bhagalpur Riot


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The Week
Oct 31, 1999


By Kanhaiah Bhelari

Bibi Shakina of Logai village saw her husband being chopped to pieces
ten years ago. Today, she suffers a fate worse than death while her
husband's killers roam free. "I would have committed suicide but I want
to marry off my three daughters," she says, her eyes betraying her
Chasing a mirage: Bibi Fatima, whose husband was killed,
is yet to get compensation
Her husband was among the 116 persons who were killed in a communal riot
in Logai in Bhagalpur district on October 27, 1989. It was one of the
worst communal riots, with more than a thousand killed in the district.
The rioters in Logai buried the bodies in a field and planted vegetables
there, defying curfew. Shakina, in her statement before a magistrate,
named the killers and a police officer in charge of Jagdishpur and the
block development officer who allegedly helped in burying the bodies.
Some of them tried to intimidate her into withdrawing the case. They
needn't have: the case has not yet come up for hearing. Kamaru Rehman, a
special public prosecutor, says the delay is mainly because some of the
accused are absconding. But he also blames the police for not showing
any keenness to trace them.
After Shakina had moved to Babura village with her young children, some
villagers in Logai started cultivating her 44 bighas of land. She holds
Sadanand Singh, a former mukhiya, responsible for inciting the
encroachers. "The district magistrate and the police superintendent
haven't shown any interest in solving the problem," she says.
Those who had migrated from Logai to Pithna and Babura, after the
massacre, never mustered courage to return, even though strangers had
usurped their land. Sadanand Singh has been trying to persuade Shakina
and others like her to sell off their land at throwaway prices. His
offered Rs 14,000 per bigha while the market rate was Rs 50,000. Shakina
alleges that he threatened to kill her son Mohamed Ansar if she did not
accept the price he offered. Fearing for her son, she made him
discontinue his intermediate course at Bhagalpur and stay with her.
The only one who went back to his land in Logai was Mohamed Nazim, whose
wife and two children had been killed in the riots. Two years after the
return, in January 1990, he remarried but trouble has not stopped
haunting them. There have been frequent thefts, and his mother Jilabin
Khatun says, "Bad elements are doing all this to make us leave. But we
will stay here till we die."
Malka Begum (right), whose leg was chopped off, was rescued by soldiers
from a pond. One soldier from J&K married her but he took away the
compensation and deserted her and their children.
More wrenching is the plight of Malka Begum of Chanderi, whose leg was
chopped off. The marauders, who killed 66 persons in her village, left
her in a pond for dead. Soldiers rescued her and took her to a hospital.
A soldier, Mohamed Taj from Punchh in J&K, who was posted in Bhagalpur
to restore normalcy, married her. He turned out to be worse than her
attackers: he took away her compensation and deserted her and their two
She filed a case against him in 1993 but has got no relief till now. Nor
has she got the job that Laloo Prasad Yadav promised as chief minister.
All that she has is a monthly allowance of Rs 100 for the handicapped,
and a piece of land that Gulam Sarvar granted as Governor. He also gave
her an artificial leg.
Another casualty of the riots has been the silk industry that employed
10,000 labourers in handlooms and powerlooms. They are now jobless. "We
became paupers," says Majahar Shamim, who once earned crores from the
In all, 811 FIRs had been filed after the riots. The police filed 302
chargesheets, and the lower courts have disposed of 152 cases,
acquitting the accused in 119 cases. In the remaining 33 cases, the
district and sessions court punished many of the accused with life
imprisonment. Most of them have appealed to the High Court. The other
cases are pending before the special courts.
The state government gave compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the families
of 634 victims. Some also got Rs 10,000 from the Prime Minister's Relief
The administration rejected 169 pleas for compensation. Special public
prosecutor Kamaru Rehman has referred some of these to the Lok Ayukta.
"The district administration may be short of funds. Otherwise, there is
no reason to reject the genuine claims of the victims," says Rehman. He
points out that the sessions court has directed the district
administration to pay compensation in some of these cases. "For example,
the police have admitted in court that rioters killed the husband of
Bibi Fatima. But she hasn't got any compensation," he says.
Shakina (left, with daughters) moved to Babura village after her husband
was murdered. The villagers started cultivating her land.
Every working day, Fatima walks 10 kilometres from her village, Sihnan,
to Rehman's chamber in the court premises to find out the progress of
her case. "She doesn't have any land or money, and one of her daughters
died a few years ago," says Rehman.
As the photographer clicks, the tearful woman asks if she has finally
been awarded compensation. "Never mind. She has lost some of her
balance," says Rehman. The delay would do that to anyone. "I suspect
that the state government is deliberately going slow on the matter,"
says Rehman. He says that most of the accused have got bail while others
are persuading the appellants to withdraw their cases. Some witnesses do
not turn up during hearings as the police do not provide them any
Bibi Shajahan of Bhagalpur had accused a dozen policemen of murdering
her husband Hanif, who was a peon in the district magistrate's office.
All the accused got anticipatory bail. Similarly, all the 24 accused
involved in the riots in Chanderi got bail. The hearing in these cases
is yet to begin.
The state government had constituted three special courts, exclusively
for riot cases. It also appointed two special public prosecutors (SPPs),
who were later replaced by five SPPs in 1995. A special court judge told
The Week that the police were not keen on producing the witnesses or
tracing the accused, even after receiving several court notices.
On the other hand, many people like Mohamed Shakeel Ahmed claim that the
police falsely implicated them. "I was a true follower of Mahatma Gandhi
and Jawaharlal Nehru," says Ahmed. "I got awards for restoring peace
from several organisations like the Gandhi Pratisthan." He was in love
with a girl but didn't want to marry until he had cleared himself of the
charges. On August 5 this year, he was acquitted but his sweetheart had
already become another man's wife. "The police ruined my life," he
With financial help from Tisco, the district administration had built
200 houses at three riot-hit villages for those affected. But in
Chanderi, only 5 of the 27 affected families live in these houses. The
rest are occupied by anti-socials. Malka says that the families had
suggested certain sites for their relocation but the district
administration paid no heed.
The riot-hit families have no hope that the marauders will ever be
brought to book. At best, some innocent people will be made scapegoats,
they say. Experience has made them bitter cynics.


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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .