People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 06, 2012


We Had Died, Who Killed Us?


G Mamatha


ONCE again we are denied. This time it is not justice alone, but also the sense of solidarity that is expressed with those who are denied. I know you do not understand what I am talking about. It is about justice that was due to an incident that had taken place sixteen years ago. Sixteen years is a long time, I know. But thanks to the prolonged legal procedures, we were forced to wait that long for courts to produce their verdict. We believed it to be an open and shut case. The incident had taken place in what is often called as 'broad daylight'. The gory of that day, the fear it had created amongst us, refuses to die in my memory. I can still see it happening in front of me. I know, you are not me, for your sake, I will recount it.


Sixteen years ago, in the afternoon on July 11, 1996 for three hours, from 2 pm till 5 pm, death danced in our village, Bathani Tola in Bihar. On that day, while we were afraid of being killed, ashamed to have been born , ashamed of being helpless – helpless to the extent of failing to save even our near and dear ones, little did we realise that the fear we had experienced on that day will kill us everyday. It had been all these sixteen years. At times, we cursed ourselves for not dying on that day, along with all our beloved ones. Today, we are ashamed of being alive. Alive, to see that those very killers walking free, laughing heartily in front of us. Laughing with pity at our belief in the administration to stand by us and laughing with pity in our belief in the judiciary to punish them. It appears that they are laughing at our foolishness, in our belief that the powerful can be punished. Their laughter again sent us that fear down our spines. Why are we still alive?


OK...let me tell you what had happened. On that day, while we were there in our village, they had come armed cursing us – our caste, our courage to question them and ask for better living conditions. They called themselves Ranveer Sena (I understood their name today very well, war, victory and army!) All of them representing the 'upper-caste' landlords. For three hours they went on shouting, insulting, kicking and killing. They did not differentiate between old, young, men, women, children and even infants. I still remember, a three year old baby of my neighbour tossed in the air and cut into two as she fell. For the first time in my life I had cursed the one above for creating such brutes who do not know anything but caste and power. For the first time I had cursed Him, for allowing that baby to take birth amongst us – a baby who does not know anything about caste and power. Before I could regain my senses from witnessing that brutal act, another of them slashed open the womb of my brother's wife, killing the foetus. Should I thank the above one for saving three years of her life and witnessing the power of caste and land?


Three hours it was, but for us hiding it was three years. For the police it took three yugs to come. Of course, their thana is very far from the scene – 100 metres. I heard people are running the distance these days in 9.89 seconds. But it was 1996, not know. Any way, now I feel that even if they had come, would they be stopping the Sena goons? Or, siding with them? Anyway, to be fair to the police, they did not join their brothers in killing us. Of course, it is another thing that they did not even stop them. Let me tell you, if you feel that police will help you, we learnt: no. There is not a police outpost, but three more thanas around our village, all at a distance of 1-2 kms. If they were sensitive, our cries would have brought them there, even if they had no knowledge. I hear them even after sixteen years and had heard them all these sixteen years.


Governments have come and governments have gone these sixteen years. All of them talked about imparting justice. All of them said, in the land of Pataliputra, justice will prevail and triumph. We heard all that. We heard even the court judgements. Two years ago a sessions court convicted 23 for the massacre, sentencing three to death and 20 to life. We thought, after all, there is justice. Today, the High Court, seated in the very same Pataliputra, the seat of justice, opened our eyes to reality. It said and we heard, with respect, none of the 23 can be punished. Justice is blind! It could not see what had happened then. The police, the lawyers nobody could show it what had happened then. We are seeing it daily. When we tried showing it to the Court, it did not believe us. The court said, it cannot believe us because, if the killers are so cruel, they would not have spared us who were hiding. They could have found us and killed us too. That we are alive, according to the court, is a proof that we did not see what had happened and who had done it. Should we be happy that we are alive to live this life? We lost the reason of our life when the court refused to see what we had seen then.


Why should it? It is also part of the system. The present government which gave the slogan, 'nyay ke saath vikas' (Justice With Development) disbanded the enquiry commission established to look into the background of the Ranveer Sena. The Commission, we heard, was about to name the political patrons of the Ranveer Sena. Opposition did not oppose this move. The Commission had found out what we always knew: leaders belonging to BJP, JD(U), Congress and RJD had funded and patronised the Sena. Naturally, they did not present our case properly in the court. Today, Brahmeshwar Singh, the mastermind of that incident is free.


More than all this, why feel denied, is how you all had reacted. We too see some Hindi films and saw the film about a girl who was killed in Delhi and how the people fought to punish her killer. We heard about the incident and the film made on it, in the TV. We do not know how to read that well, so did not read the papers, but we were told that papers too carried lot of news about this fight for justice. We saw people lighting candles, standing in silence near India Gate and in many other cities. Only one who is suffering knows the value of solidarity and we felt it then.


Today, after the verdict, we thought all of you would come out with candles, stand in silence for us. We found none of it. Sorry, we are not that knowledgeable to know about all the new ways in which you people talk – phones, computers, etc. So if you had talked through them, we do not know. But we did not find you on TV. We did not find you near India Gate. We did not find you in Mumbai or even in Patna. Yes, there were few who had organised dharnas. But they are only few. What about all of you? Are we ‘dalits’ for you too? Are we ‘agricultural labourers’ for you too? Are we not human beings for you?


We are not from Delhi and we do not have big names among us. But we lost 21 lives. We are from a village in Bihar, agricultural labourers and dalits. We have a simple question: if they did not kill us, what happened to those 21. Did they not die? If they had died, who killed them? Is it not the duty of the government to enquire and ensure justice?


Yes, the government does not do this, because it wants to protect its interests – the interests of the landlords and the upper-caste. We knew this from experience. Also our experience taught us that the people united are powerful. You can at least ask the government, questions on our behalf. The central home minister had recently told, it seems, that dalits are denied access to police stations and that it too is a form of untouchability. He called it a shame. Please question him, is it not a shame for him with what had happened to us? Tell him not to question us, ask him to pose this question to his government.


Another minister said, it seems, we have to see how to seize arms from those who indulge in such violence and have to give arms to dalits for self defence. Please, we do not want arms. Ask him to take arms from those who had killed us and use the arms of the government properly to protect us. If that is properly done, then it is more than arming us. We have one more request to make. Please ask these two ministers who spoke about us so sympathetically and said that only 3 to 8 among 100 who commit crimes against us are punished, why is this so? Who is stopping them from punishing them? Are we not coming to courts, whenever, wherever we are asked? Are we not telling the courts what we had seen? Still, we are asked to go from this court to the other. Just as a cow is brought home by showing some green grass, we too are being moved here and there telling us that justice will be done. But what had happened now?


We know all of you are busy people. Busy in working day and night to run your families, to ensure your children study, to be happy. Remember, we too had families, sixteen years back. We too had children sixteen years back. We too had the same dreams sixteen years back. We too worked the same way sixteen years back and we are still working the same way. The only difference is now we do not have our children, they were killed, we do not have our families, they were killed. Our dreams then were to lead a happy life. Now our dream is just to bring justice to those of us who were killed. We have lost our happiness, never to regain. But we learnt all these sixteen years that if we do not fight for justice, others too will lose their happiness. We know that pain. We do not want others to experience it. So we are fighting. Join us, not for us but for you too.