Madhubani killings: Caste militias in spotlight again
The Madhubani killings, in which five persons of a family in a village were shot dead on March 29 on the day of Holi, has once again turned the spotlight on the infamous militias in Bihar, mostly formed on caste lines.
The main accused in this case, Pravin Jha (30), who calls himself Ravan for reasons not yet clear, was heading a private army which he named “Ravan Sena”, mainly consisting of Brahmins in the area.
Police say the violence took place for fishing rights in a local pond, which is a source of income of many in the area. The dominant Rajput community of the village had control over the pond which Jha wanted for Brahmins.
Private caste armies are nothing new to Bihar, the most notorious being Ranvir Sena (of Bhumihars). Others were Lorik Sena (Bhumihars) , Bhumi Sena (Bhumihars) and Kisan Sangh (Rajputs).
Caste armies hit headlines mostly in 1990s when they executed massacres, mostly in central Bihar.
The “Ravan Sena” of Benippati in Madhubani district was raised in 2018 and is the second of its kind militia group in the Brahmin community, with its influence mainly confined to Madhubani. “Of late, it has become active on social media in some pockets of Gopalganj as well,” said a police officer on the condition of anonymity.
The first private army of Brahmins, called the “Parshuram Sena”, was formed by dreaded gangster Santosh Jha, who broke away from CPI (Maoist) in early 2000 and formed “People’s Liberation Army”, also known as “Parshuram Sena”, in Nepal. The outfit has been known to demand and collect extortion from contractors executing road projects. Its members allegedly killed over a dozen engineers and supervisors in the last one decade.
Jha, who was serving a life term for the murder of two engineers and was facing trial in about 20 criminal cases, was shot dead on court premises in Sitamarhi on August 28, 2018.
“The Parshuram Sena operates in Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Darbhanga and Madhubani districts of north Bihar, besides adjoining Nepal, and has a more wider reach that Ravan Sena,” said a police officer.
According to his Facebook’s profile, Jha of Ravan Sena was preparing to contest panchayat election and had already declared himself as Mukhiya. Police sources in Darbhanga said he had been an active member of the Bajarang Dal and was a former president of its district unit.
“Yes, I am villain for those who are dividing the society for vested interests, those who are promoting injustice,” one of the posts uploaded by him on his FB page says.
A legislator of the ruling JD (U), who visited the village after the killings as a member of the party’s fact-finding team, described Jha as a “ruffian who indulged in extortion”.
Madhubani’s superintendent Dr Satya Prakash said only two cases were lodged against Pravin of Ravan Sena in the district. “We are interrogating him for more details.”
Rival political parties alleged he was also into illegal liquor business. However, police said no case had been lodged against him for liquor recovery. “Only a case for recovery of illegal arms had been lodged,” said a police official.