A court in Bhagalpur on Monday convicted 14 accused persons, including a police officer, in connection with the killing of 116 people at Logai village under Jagdishpur police station during the 1989 Bhagalpur communal riots.
Seizing upon its huge messaging potential for the Muslim community, the Nitish Kumar government was quick to claim credit for the development. Reached for his reaction, Principal Secretary (Home) Afzal Amanullah described the verdict as a "major success" for the present regime, which had especially posted a DIG at Bhagalpur to pursue riot cases which had been put in cold storage and even to look into cases which had been closed.
"Twenty-seven such cases have been reopened. The Logain massacre is the most infamous of all the Bhagalpur cases. Now, that we have the verdict in this one, the government reiterates its resolve to bring all other riot cases to their logical conclusion," Amanullah told HT
The judgement was delivered by the Additional District and Sessions Judge VII, SN Mishra, after a long-drawn trial. Holding the accused responsible for the massacre, he fixed June 27 as the date for sentencing.
Among those who were pronounced guilty under sections 147, 302, 201, 436, 380 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code was Ramchandra Singh, who was serving as officer in-charge of the Jagdishpur PS when the incident took place.
The others convicted were Kuldeep Mandal, Arjun Mandal, Prabash Mandal, Sukhdeo Mandal, Ajablal Mandal, Subash Mandal, Shivlal Mandal, Naresh Mandal, Jaddu Mandal, Ramdeo Mandal, Suryug Prasad Singh, Thakur Paswan and Jai Prakash Mandal.
Barring Jai Prakash Mandal, all other accused persons were present in the court when the verdict came. Jai Prakash Mandal’s absence prompted the court to declare him an absconder. Cancelling Mandal's bail, the judge directed the police to produce him in the court on the date fixed for sentencing.
The carnage at Logai had taken place on October 27, 1989. A mob of rioters had attacked the village late in the evening and targeted members of a particular religious community. After the killing spree, the bodies of the victims were thrown in a village pond and later dumped in two wells in the village.
The bodies were subsequently buried in paddy fields. The mass killing was unearthed 25 days later -- on November 21, 1989 -- when the then additional district magistrate inspected the spot after being informed about the matter by residents of the adjacent Babura village, during a visit. He gave his report to the then district magistrate on November 22, 1989.
Thereafter, IAS officer Santosh Mathew was asked to conduct an inquiry into the incident. He submitted his report on December 1, 1989. This report was marked to the then DIG Ajit Dutta for verification and further action. Then, on December 3, 1989, a fresh FIR was registered in the matter on the basis of a written statement given by Azraf Ali, a resident of the village.
Another FIR in connection with the killings had been lodged earlier on October 29, 1989 on the basis of a statement by the village chowkidar
who was later named as an accused and figured on the list of those convicted on Monday. The massacre victims' list comprised 55 men and 61 women.
The verdict came only days after a new commission set up by the present regime to inquire afresh into the riots held its first hearing at Bhagalpur on May 31. The outcome of the case was eagerly awaited in the top echelons of the Nitish Kumar government, which had taken the position that the erstwhile RJD regime had not done enough to bring the rioters to book.
But senior RJD MLA Shakeel Ahmed Khan, who served as Law Minister under the erstwhile Rabri Devi regime, insisted every possible measure was taken during his tenure to expedite the trial.