Millennium Post

No end to private armies in Bihar

Brahmeshwar Singh, the founder of the notorious Ranveer Sena and the mastermind behind dozens of massacres perpetrated by the sena in Shahabad and Magadh regions of Bihar between 1995 and 2000, was gunned down at Ara in the early hours of 1 June. The cremation took place in Patna on the next evening. For two full days, sena supporters went on a rampage, attacking hostels of Dalit students at Ara, setting on fire private or public vehicles parked anywhere on the Ara-Patna route, beating up passersby and journalists trying to take snaps of their acts of arson and vandalism. Ara, on 1 June, and Patna, on 2 June, wore a deserted look and the state administration virtually disappeared from the scene, leaving the people at the mercy of this rampaging contingent of thugs. So much for the real meaning of good governance and rule of law in the Nitish Kumar dispensation.

Even though the Ranveer Sena was formally banned soon after its inception, the sena had all the freedom in the world to carry out one massacre after another, usually at night but at times also in broad daylight, killing hundreds of innocent people, sparing neither women nor children or elderly people. The gruesome killings were sought to be justified by the most macabre logic possible – the massacres were the only way to wipe out the Communist party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Women were targeted as they would give birth to Naxalites, children were eliminated as they would otherwise grow into Naxalites. The police were often hand in glove with the killers. While the
butchered people at Bathani Tola, the police were present in camps as close as 100 and 200 metres and yet not a single bullet was fired. In Ekwari, village of Bhojpur, it was the police that raided houses so the sena could barge in and kill people.

It was only in 2002 when the sena had been completely exposed and isolated that the sena chief was finally arrested in what many believed was essentially a case of surrender.

The commission of inquiry headed by Justice Amir Das that was set up in the wake of the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre in December 1997 to probe the politico-administrative links of the Ranveer Sena was never really allowed to take off. Soon after he became the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar officially disbanded the commission much to the relief of many political bigwigs of Bihar. When the massacre cases finally came up for trial, in a mockery of judicial procedures, in some cases Singh was treated as an absconder even as he was in jail. Acquitted in some cases, Singh was let out on bail in 2011 when Nitish Kumar became chief minister for the second time.

After the recent Patna high court verdict acquitting all the 23 persons convicted by the Ara court in May 2010 for the Bathani Tola massacre, Singh warned the government not to appeal to the supreme court against the acquittal. Following his provocative statements and renewed attempts to whip up feudal violence, the CPI(ML) had called upon the Nitish Kumar government to get Singh’s bail cancelled. This was in fact one of the demands for which CPI(ML) leaders had been on an indefinite fast in Patna, Ara and Daudnagar from 26 May onwards.

While Singh’s supporters and even sections of the media tried their best to project him as a hero or saviour of the peasantry, the informed democratic opinion in Bihar as well as the rest of the country treated him as one of the most hated symbols of decaying feudal domination in Bihar. The world heard of Singh not as a leader of any kind of peasant movement, but only through the most brutal massacres carried out by the Ranveer Sena. No wonder few tears were shed after the news of his killing spread and his supporters had to go on a rampage to ‘mourn’ his exit.

The formation of the Ranveer Sena itself was an act of last-ditch feudal desperation to reclaim the decaying feudal hegemony of yesteryear. Far from intimidating the people, the massacres however only steeled the resolve of the rural poor to fight back and the sustained political battle waged by the CPI(ML) had left the sena thoroughly exposed and isolated. Renewed attempts by Singh and all the patronage of the JD(U)-BJP government could not put much life back into the once dreaded feudal private army. The question many are asking now is whether the exit of Singh will once again revive the Ranveer Sena? Initial reports may well indicate an emotional backlash, but one can only hope wisdom will prevail and the folly of Ranveer Sena will not be attempted again.

The exit of Singh may signify the end of one of the most notorious symbols of Bihar’s stubborn feudal vestiges, but that by no means should be construed as an automatic weakening of feudal forces in Bihar.

These forces still weigh quite heavily on the legislative, judicial and bureaucratic balance in Bihar as can be inferred from signs like the disbanding of the Amir Das Commission, the abandoning of the Report of the Land Reforms Commission and the most recent acquittal of the perpetrators of the Bathani Tola massacre.

But even if it signals the end of the feudal private army mode in the 21st century, it will mean not a small victory for the forces of progress and democracy on one of the historic fields of protracted war.  

Dipankar Bhattacharyya is the general secretary of the CPI(ML) Liberation
Next Story
Share it