India upper-caste militia leader Brahmeshwar Singh slain (Los Angeles Times)
“Brahmeshwar Singh, a wealthy landlord known as the ‘Butcher of Bihar,’ was killed in a hail of bullets Friday while taking his morning walk, ending a notorious chapter in Indian history.
“Singh, 67, the leader of a banned militia of upper-caste members known as Ranvir Sena, hit the headlines in the 1990s after he and fellow landlords were accused of the massacre of scores of lower-caste Dalits, or so-called untouchables, in central Bihar state. [...]
“The Sena, or ‘army,’ was formed in 1994 by landlords who felt threatened by the state's changing political winds, including louder calls for Dalit rights and land reform as well as a growing number of attacks on the wealthy by Maoists.
“Singh, who took over the group a few months after it was formed, was suspected of planning or directly participating in as many as 29 incidents in which more than 200 Dalits were killed. In 1996, 23 were killed in a village in Bhojpur district and in 1997 about 60 were slain in the state’s Lakshmanpur Bathe area.
“Little effort was made to hide the killings in Bihar, a state with a serious law-and-order problem and a centuries-old feudal structure that viewed landholders as a law unto themselves, analysts said.
“The attacks ‘were carried out openly during the day and at night,’ said Ajit Kumar Singh, a research fellow and Bihar native with New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management. ‘Sometimes victims were shot, sometimes butchered.’
“Singh went underground for several years after the group was banned, but he retained significant support among Bihar’s upper caste and would periodically hold high-profile news conferences.
“‘He became sort of a celebrity,’ said Sankarshan Thakur, an editor with the Telegraph newspaper and author of a book on Bihar's political system. ‘He knew how to work the system.’”
Butcher of Bihar: Brahmeshwar Singh alias ‘Mukhiya’ (Firstpost.com (India), June 1, 2012):
“The Ranvir Sena, loosely translated as the army of the brave, is suspected to have been formed around 1994 by landlords of the Bhumihar caste to battle growing Naxalite activism in the region and perhaps owes its creation to a fight between landlords and Communist party activists in which one person was killed.
“Singh, a graduate from the Jain College in Arra who was named village ‘mukhiya’ (headman) at age 17, and another landlord Dharicharan Chowdhury are credited with forming the militia and ensuring that their supporters were well equipped with weapons, provided allowances and other benefits.
“Competing with other militia like Sunlight Sena, Savarna Liberation Army, Brahmarishi Sena, Kuer Sena and Ganga Sena around the same time and which drew their cadre based on caste, the Ranvir Sena stood out with brutal massacres that catapulted them into the national consciousness.
“Horrific massacres like that of Baithani Tola in 1996 in which 21 were killed, mostly women and children; the 1997 Lakshmanpur-Bathe village massacre in which 58 were killed and the 1999 Shankarbigha village massacre in which 23 villagers were killed, ensured that the Ranvir Sena were feared and reviled.
“Promising to claim 15 lives of opponents for every murder of their own group, the Ranvir Sena were equipped with automatic guns and were dreaded for their night attacks in which they stormed villages and murdered perceived enemies. Despite being banned in 1995, the militia continued to go on rampages for years later and are accused of taking close to 277 lives.
“As the Ranvir Sena's clout grew, so did Singh’s status within his Khopira village in Bhojpur district and areas well beyond. The biggest landowner in his village owning 100 bighas of land, Singh was held in high esteem despite being on the run from the police who claimed to be seeking to arrest him in one of the 22 cases registered against him. Not all believe he was on the run as claimed thanks to his political links which were extensive.
“Proof of this was the fact that he continued to address meetings and was arrested only in 2002 while holding one such public meeting of a Ranvir Sena wing in a building located in a crowded area of Patna. Many believed his arrest took place as a result of the political cracks that emerged between the Ranvir Sena and the political parties that supported it.
“After his arrest, a defiant Singh told reporters, ‘I don’t have any remorse over the massacres carried out by the Ranvir Sena in its fight against Naxalite groups such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, or the CPI(ML) Liberation, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People's War (P.W.) and their supporters, particularly among the landless poor and the backward Dalit community.’”
Cast of Killers (Outlook India, June 18, 2012):
“Brahmeshwar Singh, alias Mukhiya, is said to have once publicly justified the killing of Dalit women and children. The self-styled chief of the Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords which unleashed terror in the 1990s killing fields of Bihar, was quoted as saying that Dalit children grew up to be Naxalites and the women give birth to them.”
And see further:
Ranvir Sena's reign to terror: Bloodshed between 1995-2002 (India Today, June 1, 2012):
1995 - Khopira (Bhojpur district): It was at the ancestral village of Ranvir Sena founder Brahmeshwar Singh, aka Mukhiyaji, that the outlawed militia of the upper caste landlords first struck, killing three scheduled caste agricultural workers.
1995 - Sarthua (Bhojpur): Six farm labourers belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1996 - Bathani Tola (Bhojpur): 22 agricultural workers belonging to the scheduled castes and Muslim communities killed.
1997 - Laxmanpur-Bathe (Jehanabad): 58 people belonging to scheduled castes gunned down.
1997 - Haibaspur (Patna): 10 more farm labourers belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1997 - Ekwari (Bhojpur): 10 people belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1998 - Nagri (Bhopur): 10 farm workers belonging to the scheduled castes killed.
1999 - Sendani (Gaya): 12 poor people massacred.
1999 - Narayanpur (Jehanabad): 11 people from the backward communities killed.
1999 - Shankarbigha (Jehanabad): 23 people of the village executed.
2002 - Mianpur (Aurangabad): 35 members of the backward and scheduled castes killed.
A lasting signature on Bihar’s most violent years (Indian Express, June 4, 2012)