“The Patna High Court has acquitted all the 23 persons accused of perpetrating the massacre of 21 Dalits at Bathani Tola in Bhojpur in 1996.
“The carnage took place on the afternoon of July 11, 1996. Upper-caste (Rajput and Bhumihar) landowners of the Ranvir Sena — a private militia of the landlords — stormed Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district's Sahar block in Central Bihar and ruthlessly hacked the Dalits, among them women, teenage girls and babies less than 10 months old.
“Ajay Singh was charged with brutally killing 10-year-old Phool Kumari, Manoj Singh was charged with the murder of the three-month-old daughter of Naimuddin (one of the prime eyewitnesses) and Nagender alias Narendra Singh was charged with slaughtering two women, Sanjharu and Ramratiya Devi. They were awarded the death sentence by the sessions court.
“Bathani Tola, along with Laxmanpur-Bathe (where more than 60 Dalit men, women and children were slaughtered by the Ranvir Sena), have since become bywords for caste massacres that engulfed central Bihar from the mid-1990s onwards.”
Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s Untouchables (Human Rights Watch, March 1999):
“The Ranvir Sena was founded by upper-caste Bhumihars in Belaur village, Bhojpur district, in 1994. It first made international headlines in July 1996 with its attack on Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district, Bihar, which left nineteen Dalits and Muslims, mostly women and children, dead. Sixty members of the sena reportedly descended on the village and set twelve houses on fire. Using lathis, swords, and firearms, the attackers continued the onslaught for two and a half hours. The attack was reportedly in retaliation for the earlier killing of nine Bhumihars in Nadhi village, also in Bhojpur district, by the CPI(M-L). The conflict began when CPI(M-L) began organizing the agricultural laborers to demand the statutory daily minimum wage of Rs. 30.75 (US$0.77). Landowners were only willing to pay Rs. 20 (US$0.50). CPI(M-L) members convinced laborers to refuse employment at that wage and called for an economic blockade against landowners. The attack on Bathani Tola, press reports claim, was an effort to weaken the resolve of CPI(M-L) cadres organizing in the village and to prevent a labor boycott on hundreds of acres of land. None of the Ranvir Sena leaders were ever arrested for the Bathani Tola massacre.
“Since its inception, the Ranvir Sena has been implicated in killings, rapes and lootings in the villages of Belaur, Ekwari, Chandi, Nanaur, Narhi, Sarathau, Haibaspur, Laxmanpur-Bathe, Shankarbigha, and Narayanpur. On April 22, 1996, the sena gunned down five members of a marriage party in Nanaur village. The victims were believed to be CPI(M-L) supporters. In 1997 the sena killed three Dalits in Jehanabad district for raising their voice against the rape of a Dalit girl by upper-caste youths.”
Agrarian Conflict in Bihar and the Ranbir Sena (People’s Union for Democratic Rights, October 1997)
And see further:
A travesty of justice (editorial) (The Hindu, April 25, 2012)