[This write-up was published in the form of a folder issued by the Central Committee, CPI(ML) on the Bathani Tola massacre.]
As you very well know, on 11 July the blood-thirsty killers of Ranvir Sena brutally massacred innocent people of Bathani Tola. 12 women and 8 children were murdered in cold blood on that fateful day. The abdomen of a pregnant woman was slit open. A little infant’s tongue was cut off before the tiny tot’s head was chopped off with a sword, another little baby’s fingers were severed from his hand. A new born baby cringing in its mother’s lap was butchered with a sword and their hut set ablaze. A girl in the prime of her youth was raped and her breasts chopped off before she was put to death. Among those injured, two little children lost their fight for life. No one can contradict the fact that such a degree of brutality is unprecedented in the history of independent India. Is it not necessary that we should know the historical background behind this heart-rending mass murder? After all, what is the reality underlying this brutal crime?
It is imperative for you to know that the Ranvir Sena is banned since the last one and a half years and 3 police camps have been in existence in the vicinity of the Tola posing a facade of protection for the common people. The district administration had been time-and-again warned against the possibility of a big massacre. Yet no precautionary steps were taken while the policemen remained silent spectators to the gruesome orgy of blood. The Chief Minister visited the spot and suspended the local police for dereliction of duty but refused to initiate punitive action against the District Magistrate or the police chief. While the C.M. engaged in a lot of tall talks, in his private conversation with the press people he said ‘what else can be expected of them (Ranvir Sena) when the ML men conduct economic blockades’.
The Central Home Minister visited the Tola but seemed least interested in finding out the facts and details from the people of that area. Nor did he meet our Party representatives in Patna. Instead, on the basis of information gathered from the Chief Minister and the bureaucracy, he promised to modernise and streamline the Bihar Police and returned to Delhi, as though the ineffectivity of the police was due to lack of sophisticated arms. In his talks with press persons he is reported to have said such incidents are (and may continue as) an offshoot of the failure to implement land reforms in Bihar. While saying this it seems that the Home Minister had forgotten that the government in Bihar is being run by none other than the Janata Dal with the support of the CPI. Of course, the Home Minister blamed the Bihar administration, and according to a newspaper report he even spoke of its connivance in the incident. However, later, under pressure from Laloo Yadav, he went back on his words. Even after open indictment by the Home Minister and recommendation by the all-party committee to punish the D.M. and S.P., the Bihar government refused to take any action.
On the contrary, the same criminal administrators are trying to crush the peaceful movement of the people with lathis, water cannons and other terror tactics. People’s representatives sitting on indefinite hunger strike to press their demands are being put behind the bars. We are witness to a re-enactment of the Arwal massacre while the criminal of ‘Arwal’ fame, S.P. Kaswan shamelessly sticks to his position. No police action has been initiated against the Ranvir Sena while all the parties of the ruling classes are trying to save the Ranvir Sena even as they are laying the blame at our doors through all sorts of absurd logic and false propaganda.
Some of our so-called left friends have adopted a non-committal position. They fail to distinguish between the poor landless peasants and the feudal-Kulaks, they do not want to see the distinction between the dalits and minorities and the forces of Savarna caste-hegemony. Neither do they want to open their eyes to the communal hatred underlying the brutal and heinous character of the carnage, nor do they feel the urge to take to the streets even after seeing the cruel killing of new born babies and innocent women. Instead, they have been harping on the same note as the administration and are trying to misguide progressive opinion through false propaganda. In such a situation, it is necessary for us to acquaint you with the ground reality which has been little reported by the press.
The Ranvir Sena was formed two years back with the declared objective of protecting the crumbling edifice of feudalism from the fury of the revolutionary movement of poor peasants of Bhojpur. They challenged with all their might: "We will not allow Bhojpur to be turned into Russia or China; with our guns we will remove all signs of red flag not only from Bhojpur but from the entire country, we will re-establish the social system of our ancestors and revive the old customs and laws". From the day of its birth this Sena has put to death nearly one hundred innocent people in the Sahar and Sandesh blocks of Bhojpur alone, majority of whom are children, women, old and disabled people from the dalit, most backward and Muslim communities. Hand grenades were hurled at members of our Party sitting on dharna to demand administrative action against Ranvir Sena in Ara town. Similarly, grenade attack was made on a contingent of ML rallyists going for the March 11, Delhi Rally. Hundreds of people would have been killed if the grenade had exploded. In the beginning, the leadership of the Sena was with the Congress, later they switched over to BJP, and with this, the minority community became their specific target. The BJP leaders made hasty tours to their strongholds, and conducted several meetings after which the Ranvir Sena issued a written ‘Fatwa’ declaring support to the BJP. Copy of this Fatwa was placed in the Vidhan Sabha by the JD Govt. After the BJP-Samata tie-up showed its strong presence in Lok Sabha elections, all over Bihar the dominant upper castes and the feudal-kulak forces got a new lease of life and became extremely violent. Instead of countering these forces in a straight battle, the impotent leadership of Janata Dal went on appeasing them. Especially in Bhojpur district where the dalits and most backward sections are totally with CPI(ML) and where the Janata Dal openly sides with the feudal landlords in order to stop the CPI(ML) from growing, you will see Laloo Yadav openly sharing stage with criminal landlords. You will see the likes of JD MP and central minister Mr.Chandra Deo Verma demanding lifting of the ban order on Ranvir Sena while several leaders of the same party can be openly seen toasting with the criminal leaders of Ranvir Sena. This is the political backdrop behind the heightened morale of the Ranvir Sena and the connivance of the administration with it.
In the village panchayat elections of 1978, Mohammed Yunus, defeated the then mukhiya Kesho Singh and took his place. If we look at the incidents following this we will see that the victory of Yunus became a cause for permanent communal tension. The upper caste feudal psyche could not bear this defeat. They started taking revenge against the Muslims. First, they captured the road in front of the Imambara and then took over the Imambara itself. A case was lodged with the regional administrator on 13 August 91, who gave the charge for investigation to one of his subordinates. Though the report confirmed the encroachment, the administration did not take any decisive step against this. In 1992-93, the landlords destroyed the Imambara and burnt the flags after tearing them to pieces. An F.I.R. was lodged in the local police station and a case was filed. 13 days after the Bathani Tola massacre, on 23rd July 96, this case was decided in the court. The judgement says that there is no proof of any Imambara being there.
In the same way, the Kabristan land was also occupied. Mohammed Nayeemuddin filed a case against 14 people in 1993 and demanded that a boundary be constructed around the Kabristan. Due to shortage of money the case could not be fought till the end and was dismissed. But the encroachment continued as before.
The Ranvir Sena people had captured the Kabristan and Karbala land in Kanpahri (Sahar) and Navadih (Tarari). On 10 Jan 1996, Karbala Mukti Jan Jagran March was organised to protest occupation of this land. The Ranvir Sena men attacked the people who were coming from a meeting at Kanpahri. But their attack was resisted. The tension increased, yet the government did not make any effort to free the occupied land. Though Laloo Yadav declared that all burial land would be protected, nothing was done. In the month of Ramzan, on 25 April, Mohammed Sultan was killed and his body was not allowed to be buried in the Kabristan of Kharaon by the Ranvir Sena gang. Here also they were planning to murder several people but this was prevented after the body was taken to the adjoining village of Chatarpura and buried there. They still were not satisfied and attacked the Muslim tolas of village Kharaon and also other houses of ML supporters and looted their belongings. 50 families became homeless out of which 18 families were Muslim. Many of these families settled in Bathani Tola including that of Mohammed Nayeemuddin. But since the Masjid was located in the Ranvir Sena area they could not go for their Id prayers out of fear. Only with police bandobast could they offer their namaaz.
Still the tension did not subside. Now Bathani Tola had became a target and from the beginning of May to 11 July, the Sena goondas made 7 attacks on this Tola. The police remained inactive each time but the villagers chased the goondas through their own might. On 11 July, the Sena goons were successful and 5 members of Mohammed Nayeemuddin’s family were murdered and one infant died in hospital later. Mohammed Nayeemuddin and his wife were saved because they were not in the village at that time. Some say that the question of wages and land was behind the gruesome massacre but the reality is that this contradiction had been resolved one year back and there was no economic blockade in the village. The Shankar Sharan investigation team report also confirms this fact and the reality is that the struggle started only after this, so the propaganda that the massacre was a result of this contradiction is unfounded. Secondly, the manner in which the massacre took place points to an atmosphere of communal frenzy, hatred and vendetta; factually and logically, all indicators point to the communal character and backdrop of this massacre.
We have always been in favour of establishing peace. It is for this reason that, keeping in mind the aspirations of the peace-loving people, we began our peace initiative. On the occasion of the anniversary function of Swami Sahjanand Saraswati organised by Kisan Mahasabha in Bihta (Patna), we began our peace talks. Smt. Tarkeshwari Sinha and Shri Laliteshwar Shahi participated in the talks along with some respected personalities of the Bhumihar caste. From our side Central Committee Member and ex-State Secretary Com.Pawan Sharma was present. The talks were quite positive. Exactly two days after these talks the Party General Secretary issued an appeal for peace in a press conference at Ara. This appeal was well highlighted by the press. All peace-loving people welcomed it. We had also hoped for a positive answer from the Ranvir Sena. Next, we sent a message through a friend, who was mediating, that the Ranvir Sena should issue some statement so that we can proceed to the next step. The friend conveyed our message but the response was disappointing. Our peace effort had failed.
In order that we could take up developmental work in the area peace was urgently needed, so we did not give up our peace effort. This time we started again in a different way. We thought that we should create public pressure by mobilising public opinion. We also hoped that the administration would help us. In June ’96, we began a peace campaign by organising dozens of mass meetings in the main market as well as village chawls and told the people to came forward in this peace effort. In the meantime, contradictions between kisans of Ranvir Sena and our people in five villages were resolved. Through this campaign our issue of development gained seriousness and in Tarari block we started our Ghera dalo dera dalo movement. The movement was a big success.
In Ara, we organised a seminar centering the issue of peace, in which many respectable intellectuals and peace-loving persons as well as common people participated.
It is unfortunate that the Ranvir Sena showed little respect to the aspirations of the peace-loving people and retaliated with violence which continued all through our peace campaign. In this way our second effort also became unsuccessful. In a leaflet the Ranvir Sena appealed to the people to forsake this peace campaign and join the ongoing war. This may be the reason why the peace effort was rewarded through ‘Bathani Tola’.
The Bathani Tola massacre and the govt. response is a living example of how Bihar, the centre of democratic movement, is being converted into the graveyard of democracy. In this game, all the forces of darkness and retrogression have united — the forces that constitute the mafia and feudal vested interests.
We appeal to all progressive, revolutionary, democratic, socialist and left organisations and people to come together in this struggle for democracy and take it forward.
We have demanded that the administrative officers responsible for the Bathani Tola massacre be punished. If we fail to win this battle no one can stop criminals like Kaswan from multiplying and the police as well as the private armies from engineering more and more massacres like Bathani Tola.
We appeal to you to join this movement for justice through resolutions in meetings of intellectuals, through organising marches, sending telegrams to the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Governor and Chief Minister or issuing statements demanding punishment to the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police.