Verdict does little to heal massacre scars
For Baudh Paswan (60), who lost his wife, four sons and two daughters in the 1997 Jehanabad massacre, Wednesday’s court verdict sentencing 16 men to death for the killings has only fuelled his anger.india Updated: Apr 11, 2010 00:29 IST
For Baudh Paswan (60), who lost his wife, four sons and two daughters in the 1997 Jehanabad massacre, Wednesday’s court verdict sentencing 16 men to death for the killings has only fuelled his anger.
“Fifty-eight were killed that day. More than 150 killers had surrounded our village from all sides. Thirteen years later, what do we see? Just 16 getting the death sentence,” Paswan said, adding that true justice has been denied to the families of the Dalit victims. “Why couldn’t the government ensure that all the killers were caught and punished in the manner our sons and daughters were treated?” he said, his voice cracking.
Twenty-year-old Bimlesh Kumar was just seven when the heavily-armed men of the Ranvir Sena, a militia raised by upper caste landlords, barged into Laxmanpur-Bathe village, broke open the door of his house and opened indiscriminate fire.
“I saw my father, Sohar Rajvanshi, and brothers, Matarmal and Kamlesh, and their wives fall down,” he said. “A bullet hit me in the cheek and I fainted,” he said, pointing to the scar under his left eye.
Laxmanpur-Bathe is a village in Bihar’s Jehanabad district — now part of Arwal — about 127 km southwest from state capital Patna.
Many of the village’s Dalits who escaped the massacre have left the village.
“There has scarcely been a day when Bathe’s Bhumihars and Rajputs have not threatened us with even bloodier reprisals,” said Lachman Rajvanshi (60), one of the main witnesses in the case. “Even as the 14 accused Bathe residents were on their way to Patna for the sentencing, their relatives threatened us with dire consequences if we dared open our mouths.”
But relatives of some of those sentenced to death said the judgment was skewed and innocents, who had nothing to do with the killings, had been handed out the sentences.
Nawal Singh is one of the 16 guilty. “He (Nawal) had come to the village just a couple of days before the killings,” his brother Nand Kishore said. “He scarcely knew anyone here. How is it that he was indicted?”
“The judgment has again stoked the embers of distrust between the two communities. For three years after the massacre, no Dalit worked for us,” said Rajendradhari Singh (70), a retired policeman, adding that things were returning to normal. “But now, we have this politically-motivated judgment.”
More than 12 years after the massacre, Laxmanpur-Bathe is a scarred and divided village.