1999 Senari massacre: Patna HC acquits all 13 convicts

PATNA Setting aside the guilty verdict by a lower court, the Patna High Court Friday acquitted all 13 peole convicted for the infamous Senari massacre in which 34 upper caste members were killed allegedly by cadres of the banned Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in 1999, the fag end of a bloody decade in Bihar marked by caste wars
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Published on May 21, 2021 09:55 PM IST
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PATNA

Setting aside the guilty verdict by a lower court, the Patna High Court Friday acquitted all 13 peole convicted for the infamous Senari massacre in which 34 upper caste members were killed allegedly by cadres of the banned Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in 1999, the fag end of a bloody decade in Bihar marked by caste wars.

Senari village, in Jehanabad district at the time of the incident, now falls into Arwal district.

A division bench of Justice Ashwini Kumar Singh and Justice Arvind Srivastava ruled that the prosecution witnesses “are not reliable” and the appellants deserved to be given the benefit of the doubt. “The acquitted persons should be released forthwith if they were not wanted in any other case,” it said.

Defence counsel Sanjay Kumar argued that the prosecution had failed to prove the participation of the appellants in the crime with credible evidence.

Altogether, 23 witnesses and five doctors who conducted autopsies on the deceased recorded their statement before the court.

“On appreciation of evidence adduced during trial, court finds that there is a real and reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the appellants. Accordingly, the impugned judgment of conviction and order of sentences are, hereby, set aside,” the bench said.

Earlier, on November 18, 2016, the Jehanabad district court had sentenced 10 persons to death and awarded life imprisonment to three others. The court had acquitted 23 others for lack of evidence.

Those who were awarded the death penalty are Bacchesh Singh, Buddhan Yadav, Butai Yadav, Satendra Das, Lallan Pasi, Dwarika Paswan, Kariban Paswan, Godai Paswan, Uma Paswan and Gopal Paswan.

On the evening of March 18, 1999, alleged MCC members forced 34 people to line up near a temple at Senari village and killed them by slitting their throats and shooting them.

Chinta Devi, whose husband Awadh Kishore Sharma and son Madhukar alias Jhabbu were among those massacred, was the complainant in the case. She died in 2011.

Sources in the home department said the Senari incident, one of the last in a series of caste-related massacres at the time, is believed to be in retaliation to the Lakshman-Bathe massacre in which 58 Dalits were killed in 1997.

Sanjay Sharma and Rakesh Sharma, eyewitnesses of the incident, said the village could have been chosen as target because of its inaccessibility. The village has 300 around houses.

Meanwhile, police have been deployed at Senari after the HC order.

The massacre had drawn international attention. The bodies were lifted for last rites by kin only after the arrival of the then union ministers George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar and Yashwant Sinha.

The bloody decade

1987: 52 upper caste members killed in Dalelchak-Bhagaura massacre in Aurangabad

1992: 34 upper caste people killed at Bara in Gaya

1996: 22 Dalit and Muslim labourers killed at Bathanitola in Bhojpur

1997: 58 Dalits killed at Lakshmanpur-Bathe in Jehanabad

1999: 34 upper caste members killed at Senari massacre in Jehanabad

1999: 23 Dalits killed at Shankarbigha in Jehanabad

2000: 35 Dalits killed at Mianpur in Aurangabad

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Avinash, a senior correspondent, reports on crime, railways, defence and social sector, with specialisation in police, home department and other investigation agencies.

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Monday, January 24, 2022