PUCL Bulletin, March 2004
Bihar PUCL report:
Rivalry between armed groups claims more lives
-- By Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice-President; Kishori Das, General Secretary, Bihar State; Mithlesh Kumar, Secretary, Bihar State; Nageshwar Prasad, Member PUCL, 14 January, 2004
The Bihar State PUCL constituted a fact finding team to enquire into the killing of six persons at Pariyari (Tolal Dih and Bigaha) in Arwal district. The team consisted of Dr. Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice-President, Kishori Das, State General Secretary, Mithilesh Kumar, Secretary and Nageshwar Prasad, member, PUCL. The team visited the village Pariyari and Kinjar police station in whose jurisdiction this village falls. A large number of villagers including men, women and children spoke to the team. It also met Asharfi Manjhi Assistant Officer-in-charge of Kinjar and other police officers assisting him and perused the FIR of the case No. 1/2004 pertaining to the unfortunate incident and also the FIR of case No. 69/2002, both of Kinjar police station.
A few of the people who spoke to the PUCL team are Sona Devi, Brat Devi, Savitri Devi, Shanti Devi, Mukesh Kumar, Sheokuri Devi, Dailati Devi, Ram Udar Singh, Ful Kumari Devi, Sanjya Singh, Mishri Bhagat, Guddu Kumar, Thakur Bhagat, Indra Deep Singh and others.
The following persons were killed or injured in the incident
A. Names of the deceased:
Kaushalendra Paswan (22) alias Goth Paswan, Sudarshan Paswan (40), Rajnath Paswan (60-70) (the father of the two named above), Guddu (16), Kamaldeo Bhagat (50), suffered from leprosy. Umesh Singh (35-40) died 4 day after the incident.
B. The injured
Sahjanand Singh, S/o late Deep Narain Sing Nagandra Thakur (30-35).
Old Jehanabad district including Arwal
This district of Bihar has been an area of armed clashes between the armed squads of CPI (ML) groups namely, the Liberation, Party Unity (which is now Peoples War Group) and MCC (Maoist Community Centre) on the one hand and the armed groups of the land owners on the other for almost last two decades. Some of the armed groups which clashed with the squads of the CPI (ML) groups were Kunwar Sena, Bramharshi Sena, Bhoomi Sena, Sawarna Liberation Front, Kisan Sena and now the Ranveer Sena. The clashes have caused a huge loss of lives – mostly of unarmed and defenceless men (old and young), women and children simply became they belonged to the villages perceived by the opposite side to be supporters of their enemies. According to a report sent by the SP of Arwal by his letter No. 456 dated 10.5.03 the Ranveer Sena has killed 132 persons between 1997 and April 2003 only in the district of Jahanabad which includes district Arwal now carved out of it.
According to the same report between 29.4.1995 and 14.4.2003, the Ranveer Sena has perpetuated the crime of such killings on 33 occasions in the districts of Bhojpur, Jehanabad, (including Arwal), Rohtas, Aurangabad, and Patna causing 292 deaths. The combined number of attacks by the CPI (ML) groups and the loss of lives caused during the last two decades should be much larger. At present, other armed groups of the land owners are not in existence. The Ranveer Sena continues to operate. The SP Arwal has drawn the attention of the government to the fact that though the MCC and the People’s War Groups have been declared terrorist organisations under Section 18 of POTA, the Ranveer Sena has not been declared a terrorist organisation (this is the stand of the SP, the PUCL is opposed to POTA itself).
The locale of the incident
The village Pariyari is in the district of Arwal which falls in the area of conflict between the Ranveer Sena and People’s War Group and MCC. The village consists of three Tolas and stretches from the east to west. In the east is Pariyari Mathia followed by Pariyari Bigha and then Pariyari Dih (East Mathia-Bihga-Dih-West), Pariyari Dih has a sizable population of Bhumihars (an upper caste which is believed to be the patron of the Ranveer Sena). However, it also has a large number of people from other castes including Brahmins, Kurmies, Telies, Kahars, Julahas, Gararies, Dhobies, Naies and Lohars (except Brahmins the rest are backward castes, Dalits, and also Muslims). The other two Tolas are largely inhabited by the backward castes and the Dalits.) as a rule, the CPI (ML) groups have the support of the down trodden i.e. of the backward castes and the Dalits. Since Bhumihars are a land owning caste (this is not to suggest that all Bhumihars own land and are rich) the conflict between them and the down trodden caused by conflicting economic interest also assumes the colour of caste conflict, though in many cases the conflict is truly caused by the assertion of their caste based superiority over the backwards and the Dalits. Thus, a situation has been created in which the down-trodden are almost totally distrustful of and hostile to the Bhumihars (this attitude is not confined to Pariyari village but is discernible throughout the area of such conflict).
The incident of 3 January, 2004
According to the eye witnesses, the killers arrived from the side of Pariyari Dih at 8 am or so and moved towards Pariyari Bigha. It was an extremely cold morning full of dense fog. A few defenceless and unsuspecting persons were sitting around a ‘Ghoora’ (fire around which people sit in the open to warm themselves). They arrived and opened fire indiscriminately killing Guddu and injuring Sahjanand Singh and Nagendra Thakur. All sitting there ran for their lives. Umesh Singh was near a hand pump presumably to wash his hands and clean this teeth as is the routine in villages in the morning. Some of the killers shot and seriously injured him there. He died after four days. Some of them shot Kamaldeo Bhagat (a leprosy patient) dead, who was just sitting in front of his hut. Then the killers moved towards Pariyari Dih and shot Gout and Sudarshan Paswan dead in front of their hut. Their father Rajnath Paswan ran towards Pariyari Bigha side through a narrow passage between the huts, but unfortunately found himself in an open field fully exposed to some of the killers who were returning from the Bigha side. He was shot at and he fell dead in the field behind their huts. The eye witnesses said that after doing their deed, they went towards Pariyari Dih i.e. the side from which they had come.
The eye witnesses said the killers had their faces covered. Besides, the fog was too dense to make the identification of the killers impossible. Some of the persons who were sitting near the fire in the open said that they ran to save their lives and did not even think of identifying the killers. Not one eye witness claimed to identify any of the killers.
The villagers claimed that there was no conflict or tension of any kind between the bhumihar landowners of Pariyari Dih and them. They categorically stated that there was no reason for them to apprehend any attack from anyone.
As for the cause for the killing, they were equally unanimous that the crime had been perpetrated to cause terror among the poor. They were also unanimously of the opinion that the crime had been committed by the Ranveer Sena. However, when asked why the Ranveer Sena chose their village as a target for creating terror, they said that their was no reason and they were clueless.
Then their attention was drawn to the fact that three members of the Bhumihar caste from Pariyari Dih were killed by the CPI (ML) groups in August 2002, and they were asked if the Ranveer Sena suspected the involvement of some people from their part of the village. They categorically denied any such connection or suspicion.
FIR of the Incident: An FIR in Kinjar case No. 1/2004 has been filed by Sheoratia Devi, mother of the deceased Kaushalendra Paswan and Sudarshan Paswan and wife of deceased Rajnath Paswan. In the FIR she has named several persons and given a detailed description of the arms which each of them had in their hands. She has also stated that they all raised slogan in favour of Ranveer Sena.
The PUCL team had a feeling that the choice of one Tola of their own village by Ranveer Sena or any other group of persons without any rhyme or reason (for creating terror) did not appear logical, though occurrence of illogical things cannot be wholly ruled out in the present scenario. In order to confirm the assertion of the villagers that some from Pariyari Bigha were accused of involvement in the killing of three persons from Pariyari Dih, the PUCL team perused the FIR of Kinjar PS case No. 69/2002 pertaining to the killing of three young men of Pariyari Dih in August, 2002. It was found that several persons including Sahajanand Singh s/o late Deep Narain Singh, who was injured in the attack on 3 January, 2004 were named as accused in that case. Some other names figuring in the FIR from Pariyari Bigha and Pariyari Dih are Rajinder Singh, Ravinder Singh, Braj Kishore Thakur, Anil Singh, Jagdish Thakur, Kanhia Sharma, Hazari Sharma and Uday Sharma (all from Pariyari, Dih). A few names from Pariyari Mathia also occur in the FIR.
However, the PUCL expenses no opinion on the involvement or otherwise of the persons named in the FIR at Kinjar PS case No. 1/2004 regarding the incident of January 3, 2004 or the FIR at Kinjar PS case No. 69/2002 regarding the incident of August 2002 in the village Pariyari.
The Ranveer Sena and the People’s War Group (PWG)
In the continuing series of clashes between the Ranveer Sena and the PWG, none of them deny their hand in the killing they effect. In this case also, the Ranveer Sena has issued a press statement taking responsibility for killing at Pariyari and announcing that they would repeat such killings if the CPI (ML) groups do not desist from imposing economic blockade and killing of farmers (Aaj, Patna 05.01.2004). The PWG has also issued a press statement and taken the responsibility of killing Shalesh Sharma (26) of village Nirakhpur for his participation in Pariyari carnage (Aaj, 08.01.2004). The clashes are likely to continue.
Finding: the killing at Pariyari is the hand-work of the Ranveer Sena as they have themselves claimed. The PWG has also retaliated by killing Shalesh Sharma of Nirakhpur. The killing at Pariyari Dih and Pariyari Bigha was an act of retaliation by the Ranveer Sena against those they consider to be with the PWG, MCC or Liberation.
The following points emerge from the situation as it exists
- The series of killing would continue causing heavy loss of lives most of whom are likely be unsuspecting defenceless persons.
- The armed groups do not seem to confront each other and appear to attack unarmed defenceless unsuspecting persons only.
- Defenceless villages, where there is no risk of armed resistance, is chosen as a soft target and attacked.
- The state government has abdicated its responsibility of protecting the life and liberty of the people and left them to fend for themselves. Thus, there is a situation of free for all, leading to a situation where might is right.
- The only remedy is for the government to enforce its law, and offer the protection of law to all in the state. Establishing the rule of law is the only solution of the problem.
- Though it offers some relief to the families of those killed and we support such financial help, we condemn state government’s practice of leaving the people at the mercy of killers and then offering the families of the killed some money as a compensation as if money can compensate for the loss of life.
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