Amir Das Commission Disbanded:
Nitish's Desperate Attempt to Shield Political Patrons of Ranvir Sena
T he refusal of the Nitish Kumar government of Bihar to grant extension to the Amir Das Commission probing the political links of the Ranvir Sena is a blatant assault on truth and democracy. Recall that the Commission was set up in the wake of the infamous Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in which killers of the Ranvir Sena had slaughtered more than 60 oppressed labouring people of this Jehanabad village in one single night in December 1997. The late President KR Narayanan had termed this massacre a national shame and in the face of massive countrywide protests and even international condemnation, the then RJD government of Bihar was forced to set up this commission to identify the political forces patronizing the gory massacres of the rural poor of Bihar.
Now, Nitish claims that the decision to disband the Enquiry was taken during President's Rule itself; his Government has only implemented it now. But his intentions were made clear by his subsequent statement, dismissing the outcry against the disbanding of the Commission by saying that it was an “emotional matter for the CPI(ML)”! In other words, Nitish is saying that identifying the perpetrators of mass massacres of Dalits by the Ranveer Sena, as well as their political patrons, and bringing them to book, is not a matter of universal concern and urgency; it merely has “emotional” significance for CPI(ML), because of its contention with the Sena! Nitish is conveying the message that the oppressed rural poor are a dispensable lot and that the government therefore need not even bother about identifying the political and social forces who have systematically presided over the brutal extermination of hundreds of rural labourers.
In the past the Commission had repeatedly complained about non-cooperation by the RJD Government and the accused political leaders, many of them from the BJP, including Dr. CP Thakur, Sushil Kumar Modi, Murli Manohar Joshi. Now the present government's decision not to grant further extension to the Commission in the name of stopping further waste of time and public money has come as the final blow. The Deputy Chief Minister, himself one of the prime accused, has also gone on record describing the very formation of the Commission as a flawed move.
By abandoning the Commission just before completion and submission of its report, the Bihar government has exposed its desperation to shield the accused, many of whom are important leaders of the present ruling combine including ministers and MLAs. Twenty years ago, the then Congress Government of Bihar had, in the month of April, perpetrated the Arwal Massacre, which had generated nationwide protests as a second Jallianwala Bagh. Rural poor had protested by gheraoing the Bihar Assembly, and despite the Government's strenuous efforts to suppress and crack down on every protest, a massive protest took place at the Assembly, and the Government was forced to back down. Now, twenty years later, the JD(U)-BJP Government of Bihar has once again in the month of April issued a challenge to Bihar 's poor, by scrapping the Amir Das Panel and insulting the memory of those hundreds of people massacred by the Ranveer Sena.
Declaring that April is not just the month of massacres and their cover-up, but also the month of resistance against repression in the face of all odds, the CPI(ML) launched a campaign for justice (Nyay Abhiyan) from 17-22 April, culminating on the Party Foundation Day of April 22.
The Amir Das Commission only had two major tasks left: to record the statement of Ranveer Sena Chief Brahmeshwar Singh and to give a final shape to the Enquiry Report. They had requested for more time in order to complete these tasks. The Amir Das Commission is one of those rare Commissions of Enquiry that Governments have been forced to set up in response to powerful struggles and protest movements of the poor. It is obvious that Governments fear the outcome of such reports and do their best to suppress or abort them. Other examples are the Enquiry into the Arwal Massacre and the Telpa Firing – both reports have never been tabled in the Bihar Assembly.
CPI(ML) Bihar State Secretary Ramjatan Sharma wrote a letter to Nitish Kumar on 19 April demanding revival of the Commission. He pointed out that during the entire session of the Bihar Assembly, the Government placed no report on the progress of the Amir Das Commission, but the very next day after the session ended, the Government announced the scrapping of the Commission. He also pointed out that the Nitish Government was on the one hand offering reservation for extremely backwards, and on the other, was protecting those patronizing the feudal massacres of the dalits-backward agrarian poor.
A signature campaign to the Bihar Governor has also been launched, demanding his intervention to reinstitute the Amir Das Commission immediately.
On April 10, 5000 agrarian labourers, men and women, from all over Bihar held a militant Protest March against the Nitish Government's move to protect political leaders with Ranveer Sena links by scrapping the Amir Das Enquiry Commission. This Protest March was led by CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, as well as State-level leaders of CPI(ML) and AIALA.
On 13 April, the Patna City Unit of CPI(ML) burnt an effigy of Nitish Kumar and held a Protest March and mass meeting. On 17 April, the CPI(ML) launched a week-long ‘Nyay Abhiyan' (Justice Campaign) culminating in the Party Foundation Day on 22 April. As part of this campaign, protest demonstrations were held in almost each Block of Bihar, by CPI(ML) and AIALA.
At Patna , Bhojpur, Jehanabad and Arwal – the four districts worst affected by Ranveer Sena massacres, the party organized ‘Nyaya Yatras'. And on 20 April, at Patna 's Kargil Chowk at Gandhi Maidan, AIALA State President Pawan Sharma, National Convenor of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee, Paliganj MLA Nand Kumar Nanda, Karakat MLA Arun Singh, and AIPWA State Secretary sat on a 48-hour mass hunger strike. Four people whose families were victims of the Bathe massacre – Vimlesh Rajvanshi, Lakshman Rajvanshi, Sikandar Choudhury and Vinod Paswan also sat on the hunger strike.
On 21 April, the second day of the fast, CPI State Secretary Badrinarayan Lal and National Executive Member U. N. Mishra, MCPI State Secretary Vijay Chaudhry, R. C. Prasad of the Janpratirodh Manch and others addressed the gathering.
The protests at the Block HQs raised the slogan of ‘Nyay Do, Kam Do!' and demanded reinstitution of the Amir Das Commission, and swift tabling of its report, exemplary action against those found guilty by the Commission, tabling of the Reports of the Enquiry Commissions into the Arwal massacre, as well as registration and job cards for all rural poor under the NREGA.
At Bhojpur, Protest Marches, dharnas, mass meetings and demonstrations were held at all Block HQs - Sahar, Koilwar, Charpokhri, Bihiya, Jagdishpur, Pira, Gadhari, Udvantnagar, Agiyari, Sandesh and Tarari - on 17 April. A massive Nyay Do Yatra began from Lakhmanpur Bathe, site of one of the Ranveer Sena's worst massacres, on 19 April, and passed through Kamta, Sakri, Khurd, Parasi, Balidad and Baidarabad to reach the District HQs. When the procession reached Arwal Bus Stand, a huge mass gathering and Protest Meet were held.