There is perhaps no one in Tirhut, who has not heard of Siswa-Patna, a village of 1200 households and 9000 souls.
"That's a normal village spread, what's the big deal?", one may ask.
But Motihari court estimates say, that Siswa-Patna, which takes pride more in it's second, is also home to the maximum number of litigants per capita in the country.
Located in Kalyanpur block of East Champaran, this village, just five kilometres northwest of the world's highest Buddhist stupa at Kesaraia, seems to have imbibed little of non-violence. For as Dinesh Singh, 34, an advocate born in the village puts it, "There are currently 20000 cases being fought by the villagers-mainly owing to land disputes to over 50 acres that the village holds. That works out to 16.66% cases per household and 2.2% cases per head". Interestingly, villagers also take pride in the number of postgraduates the village has produced, 77.
Singh is not the only villager who has taken to law as a vocation. The village has nine other lawyers, over a dozen law clerks engaged in Motihari court, while 27 of the youth are studying law to defend 'family honour'.
With an average amount of Rs 50000 spent on litigation per household each year and an average of many have taken to the avocation driven by prudence. "It saves costs in arguing in disputes".
While, the maximum numbers of people are complainants, the rest are defendants. "But every household has one or the other complaint against its neighbour, which is to be adjudicated by the courts. Many cases have been fought over several generations and without conclusion. They continue," says Sanjay Singh, 43, another leading advocate and a resident of the village.
Dinesh Singh does not count on the situation as a 'matter of pride".
"It shames us. It is unfortunate that my village is known for all the wrong reasons", he accepts.
But then, Siswa-Patna is not an ordinary run of the mill village. In fact, it has all the infrastructure, that many villages in Bihar can only dream of. The villagers boast, that they belong to the 'capital' of Champaran since its biggest tola is registered as Patna, the capital of Bihar, in panchayat records.
"We lead in everything-whether it be crime, facility or any other", says a youth who adds, "We have a primary school and a middle and higher secondary school to boot, which no other village around has."
But then Ajay Singh, 42, another lawyer accepts, "The people are not willing to change even though all their hard earned money goes waste in litigation. It's a frog in the well situation". He believes that the number of cases, which the village indulges in is between 15000 to 20,000. "I myself am asked to fight many of them as do my other co-villager lawyers. In fact, my co-villagers, even the most illiterate, know most sections of the IPC by heart and quarrel with us, if something goes wrong or a case gets delayed".
In fact, such is the situation, that morning buses to Motihari court is full of litigants-two dozen on an average, each day- except on Saturdays and Sundays. Some bus companies put in an extra bus once in the morning and an extra one back to the village at around 4 pm from Motihari. "They can always count on passengers".
Madan Singh, a law clerk of Motihari court and a native of Siswa-Patna, said criminals of the village have been so dominant over decades that even the police had to go in with extra force. In fact, the police station at Kesaria is exercised by the cases in the village and the personnels have to visit each day. Recently, villagers lynched Pankaj Singh, the dreaded terror, after a he killed a school teacher of Siswa, Vinod Sah, the investigating police party was chased and beaten. Sah's killing had come on the heels of the killing of Awadhesh Singh, a respected landowner and Raju Sahni. They were in a long line of about 16 persons killed in recent years by locals who are again fighting cases over murders.
Said Chandrama Devi, an ex-panchayat member: "No sane family wishes to give a daughter to Siswa-Patna residents. I did and I have suffered. My son in law was killed." Chandrama Devi is a widow herself after her husband Awadhesh Singh was killed by the village goons.
Sachin, 39, a lawyer of neighbouring and prosprous village, Sarottar said, "In the past many marriages were sealed in Siswa-Patna by my villagers. Today, no one will recommend any family relationships with youth in that village".
Said Harikishore Singh of Patna, "I am still looking for the right marriage alliance for my daughter.But the village name is a deterrent". So feels Chandan Kumar of the village whose sons' marriage has been delayed. "Aas-paas lagan khub hua. Yahan nahin hai", he added.
Actually, during the long drawn out 2011 marriage season, while Sarottar saw 21 baraats in Siswa Patna, "it was very,very quiet", said Sachin.