She was just over 20 when it happened. Men of Ranvir Sena, a militia of the privileged castes, descended upon the Dalit village. She was hit too. The barrel of a gun took her down and she fainted.

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Jump to navigation. The massacre - in which at least 21 people owing allegiance to the left-wing Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti MKSS were killed by the police - was the culmination of the running battle between the landless peasants' organisations and powerful landlords in the Jehanabad sub-division in which the police have been openly siding with the latter.

The Arwal massacre has been followed by an equally violent chain of events which have left seven more dead. While Chief Minister Bindeshwari Dubey continues to publicly defend and justify the police action, the outrage has shaken him. Civil rights activists have described the firing as part of a concerted plan to systematically eliminate those mobilising the poor by branding them "Naxalites" and killing them in stage-managed "encounters".

Lok Dal leader Karpoori Thakur and Congress I dissidents led by the former chief minister Jagannath Mishra have complicated matters by coming out with their own version of the events and calling it another "Jallianwalla Bagh" massacre.

That the incident was being coloured by vested interests had become evident almost immediately after the massacre. The same evening, Home Commissioner B. Singh and Director-General of Police S. Sahay rushed to the spot allegedly to shield Jehanabad Superintendent of Police C. Kaswan, who had led the police party responsible for the outrage. The police claim they were compelled to fire when a 1,strong mob of MKSS activists and sympathisers threatened to attack the police station.

But villagers, citing concrete evidence to back their claims, say that the police had fired indiscriminately on a peaceful meeting of villagers protesting the forcible takeover of nine kathas of government land by a rich Harijan with police connivance. The outrage gave the Congress I dissidents a ready-made axe to grind. Jagannath Mishra, incensed by the fact that Dubey did not even bother to visit Arwal, promptly dashed off a cable to the prime minister inviting him to Arwal and pointing out that when the Parasbigha massacre had taken place in the same Jehanabad sub-division in , the then prime minister Indira Gandhi had not only visited the area but had immediately placed the state under President's rule.

To drive home their point, the dissidents set up their own member fact finding team to investigate the matter. Three prominent rebels - Jaikumar Palit, Brajmohan Singh and Shyam Sunder Singh - rushed to Delhi last fortnight and submitted its page report to the prime minister, requesting him to visit the area and verify the facts for himself.

Though they did not make their report public, sources said that the report categorically condemned the firing as "uncalled for and unjustified". When the state Government submitted its preliminary report to the Centre on the carnage, Minister of State for Internal Security Arun Nehru, according to informed sources in the state secretariat, rejected it and Rajiv deputed a trusted aide, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commissioner V. Sharma, to tour the area and give in to the Government his own report.

Sharma spent three days in the area, refusing state government facilities and help, and reportedly went back convinced that landless peasants were being done away with under the pretext of crushing Naxalites.

Meanwhile, Karpoori Thakur, leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, prepared his own report, saying that the countryside in Bihar was passing through a reign of terror and lawlessness. Citing examples of "oppressive and coercive acts" of the police and landlords, Thakur listed five cases in March and April in which families of Harijans, Muslims and backward castes were looted, tortured and terrorised by landlords with the active help of the police.

It traced the cause of the clashes in central Bihar to the emergence of various landlords' senas in the region which, it said, are oppressing and crushing the poor in their fight for equality. This presents a dreary picture. That the police have been working on a plan to liquidate the "extremists" who have been challenging the private armies of the powerful landlords and creating awareness among landless serfs India Today January 15, is evident.

A ten-page confidential note prepared by DGP Sahay admits that the police are helping the private armies called "defence groups" in the "Naxalite-infested" areas. The note outlines a six-point plan to deal with the Naxalite menace, including raids on extremists' hide-outs by special commando groups of the Bihar Military Police BMP and identification of the areas believed to be strong-holds for effective policing.

Informed sources say, however, that at the root of the recent spate of violent incidents is a group of Congress I leaders forming what is known as the "Jehanabad lobby", reportedly headed by Rajya Sabha MP Mahendra Prasad Singh. Taking advantage of the factionalism within the party, this lobby is said to have influenced the chief minister to crack down not only on the Naxalites but also on government officials sympathetic to the peasants.

All appointments and transfers in the region are said to be controlled by this group and any official who does not fit into their scheme to eliminate the "Naxalites" is removed forthwith. It is reportedly at the instance of this lobby that a new police district of jehanabad was created on April 1 and Kaswan posted there a fortnight later. The Arwal massacre interestingly took place just three days later. That the Government has not heard the last of it yet was proved when the MKSS announced last fortnight that it would not rest in peace until it avenged the Arwal massacre.

The state Government seems to have forgotten that violence only begets more violence. Arwal massacre: Bihar CM Bindeshwari Dubey justify police action Days after the Arwal massacre of April 19, the reverberations of the tragedy still course through Bihar, their echoes reaching as far as the corridors of power in distant Delhi. Family of one of the victims.

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While Dubey is still publicly justifying the Arwal massacre, the issue is rapidly proving a focus for dissident activity.


Arwal massacre: Bihar CM Bindeshwari Dubey justify police action

Nearly a thousand people have been killed in caste violence in central and southern Bihar districts in the last three decades, according to conservative estimates. In , Bihar reported 54 per cent of total murders due to "casteism", according to Central police records. Ranvir Sena's chief Brahmeshwar Singh "Mukhiya" is in jail, charged with committing "hundreds of murders". Dalits and tribals have responded with India's most dogged, but highly divided, naxal movement.


Laxmanpur Bathe massacre

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