The announcement of quantum of punishment to 14 convicts of massacre of 116 people during the Bhagalpur riots in 1989 was on Wednesday deferred till July 7 as one of the convicts continued to abscond, ten days after being pronounced guilty.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Shambhunath Mishra postponed the sentencing of the convicts as Jaiprakash Mandal, who had not turned up before the court on June 18, the day the accused were held guilty, could not be produced despite an arrest warrant pending against him.
The judge directed the police to produce the absconder on July seven so that all convicts could be sentenced together.
Adding a new twist to the disappearance of Jaiprakash Mandal, his counsel Abhaykant Jha told the court that the convict's wife Baby Devi had sent letters to state's Additional Director General of Police, IG and DIG of Bhagalpur range and Superintendent of Police, Bhagalpur suspecting that her husband had been kidnapped.
Jha said Jaiprakash Mandal had left his house on June 17, a day before his conviction, after which his motorcycle was found abandoned at Sanhaula raising doubts about his abduction.
The judge refused to take cognizance of the letter on the ground that Jaiprakash was "not in attendance".
When the court asked the police about the attachment of the convict's property in order to force him to surrender, it was told by the prosecution that the absconder had no immovable assets that could be impounded.
Those convicted in the case are: the then officer in-charge of Jagdishpur police station Ramchandra Singh, Chowkidar Thakur Paswan, Kuldip Mandal, Arjun Mandal, Prabhas Mandal, Sukhdev Mandal, Subhash Mandal, Ajablal Mandal, Shivlal Mandal, Naresh Mandal, Jattu Mandal, Ramdev Mandal, Saryu Prasad Singh and Jaiprakash Mandal.
Though there were 24 named accused in the case, six died during the pendency of the trial, while four never turned up. 116 muslims, including women and children, were butchered by mobs and dumped into a mass grave at Logain village on which cauliflowers were planted as camouflage to escape detection.
The enormity of the Logain carnage became clear 44 days after the massacre that took place on October 27, 1989, when vultures, hovering over the mass grave, gave away the secret.
One after another, 116 bodies were exhumed and postmortem was performed by a team of doctors from Bhagalpur close to the mass grave and then reinterred at the same place.
The communal riots that began on October 24, 1989, following brickbatting on a Ram shila pujan procession near the muslim minority school at Tatarpur in Bhagalpur town, soon engulfed several parts of Bhagalpur and adjoining Banka districts.
The riots, according to Special Public Prosecutor Mohd Salauddin, left in its trail 1981, mostly muslims, dead, scores others maimed and rendered homeless besides, property worth several crores of rupees reduced to ashes.