People's Democracy

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


No. 44

November 03, 2013


Ghosts of Laxmanpur Bathe


G Mamatha


WE are ghosts. All 58 of us. Of course, there are many others, ghosts from many other places. But we 58 are from one place – Laxmanpur Bathe. There are others from Bathani Tola, Karamchedu, Tsundur, Khairlanji, etc. We are ghosts and do not like our present 'being' or 'non-being', simply put, our present state.


One becomes a ghost, according to mythology, when one dies with wishes unfulfilled or when one's life is cut short abruptly. We are not so well read (who allows us to read?), but know this much of mythology. Having seen films like 'Makhi', and many such films, we learnt all this.


Before we became ghosts, we had and shared many dreams. We dreamt of having two-full meals a day; of sending our children to schools; give them good clothes to wear; celebrate their birthdays and all other festivals as you all do. You may be surprised hearing our dreams. But yes, they are our dreams!


You may be surprised because you might be reading, seeing how some birthdays/festivals are celebrated these days. Now that we are ghosts, we can go everywhere, see and know many things. We learnt that the richest man in the country is celebrating the birthday of his wife by flying select guests – all filmi superstars, cricket heroes, leaders who are his friends – in a special aeroplane to a desert location and there will be a huge party, befitting his stature. Earlier, we learnt that he had gifted an aeroplane to his wife on her birthday. Now this. We cannot dream so big. We only dreamt of giving our children a toy plane on their birthdays. For this, we worked in the fields of our landlords day-in and day-out. Even then we could not. Thinking now, did we work any less than this man? In fact, we worked a lot harder. But still a toy aeroplane for our children was a dream for us. While, for him, bringing heaven to earth is also possible. Why?


We dreamt of celebrating Deepavali. Celebrate we did – by watching all the lights coming out from those big houses. Our kids felt happy watching all those crackers from a far and listening to the sounds they made. 'A far' is the important word in this sentence. You might be reading of how Deepavali is celebrated by those who matter. You too might have celebrated it. In the past tense, because we do not know whether it is possible to celebrate it today. Rising prices, remember! It is truly cracker-free Deepavali for us. We are following the advice of one of our union ministers, you see. He talked about our children, who work in these factories that make the crackers. And we make it for you, not for us. We know that they are not meant for us.


We dreamt of sending our children to schools. At least they can eat one meal a day. Let them sit even at the far end in the classroom or even outside. We are sad about it but are not too much bothered. We know how our children feel about it. They ask us questions, we cannot answer. They ask – what is the difference between 'them' and 'us'; they ask, why can 'they' have all things, while 'we' cannot have anything; they ask, why can 'they' sit anywhere, but 'we' always at the end of the classroom or outside. We do not give them answers. We know life teaches them as they grow. We learnt it that way.


We did not want our children to be like us. So we thought we should work to realise our dreams. We wanted respect. We wanted our work to be recognised. Recognised, both in the effort that was put, by paying us proper wages and also for the way it was done. We did not know that this simple effort for realising our dream would turn so costly. It made us ghosts. All 58 of us – men, women, children. Yes, the youngest among us is one year old. An infant ghost! There is an unborn ghost too, in the womb of a pregnant mother.


We died without realising our dreams. No, we were killed to make our dreams unrealisable. They wanted our dreams to remain just that – dreams. They killed us so that whoever was left to live would not even dare to dream. One chilly night in December, they swooped over our basti and killed all 58 of us – including 27 women, some of whom were pregnant and 16 children – not even a one year old infant was spared, the infant ghost!


We were welcomed to the ghost family by our brothers and sisters from Bathani Tola. They were 21. They were in the ghost land since the past one year it seems. They were some others from Miyanpur. All from our own land of Bihar. Though we could not understand the language of those from Kilvenmani, Karamchedu, Tsundur and Khairlanji, we understood each other very well. All of us share a common history and made a common mistake – dreamt and thought of realising our dreams.


We believed that the government would stand by us. After all, isn't our Constitution written by one of us? We did not even dream that Constitution, on which all the netas and babus take oath can be violated so easily. We did not realise that everybody – neta or babu is born into a class and a caste. We thought they would side with us, as they had vowed and promised. Yes, we were betrayed. The police did not register the case on time. The administration did not move on time. The netas, instead of forcing them to act, looked the other way or wanted them not to act. Whatever it was, we were betrayed by all of them.


It seems this was what it had happened in Bathani Tola, then Miyanpur and now even in our own Laxmanpur Bathe. So it is not that we were alone who were betrayed. All of us are betrayed. We became ghosts because of this betrayal. The sad part is those who are still living in our villages, afraid they are, too are betrayed. They are betrayed by the Courts.


We heard that the god of justice got her eyes covered so that she could not see who is who and can deliver justice without getting influenced by the people. But we have now come to know that she is blind only to our plight. Otherwise, how can you explain what is happening today?


Everybody knows who killed us. Everybody knows who is threatening, exploiting and oppressing us. It is an open secret that Ranvir Sena, a private army of the upper-caste landlords, was behind all these mass killings. But all of them are set free by the courts. Why? We narrate about what happened to our case – the case of Laxmanpur Bathe.


First, the police acted late and then, so did the judiciary. The case came to the Sessions Court in 1999, but the trial did not begin for 11 years, that is till 2008. This time was successfully used to ensure that out of the 91 witnesses, 38 turned hostile. And we don't think it is necessary for us to narrate how. The lower Court sentenced 26 persons in 2010 convicting them for our murder, criminal conspiracy and atrocity. 16 of them were awarded death, while the rest were served life imprisonment. We were happy when we heard the lower court judge observed that what happened in Laxmanpur Bathe “was a heinous crime”. We thought, at last justice was done. But as we notice now, our happiness is only short-lived.


The Patna High Court, this year on October 9, on an appeal from the accused, acquitted all of them for “lack of evidence”. It found all those who gave evidence that they had killed us as not telling the 'truth' and felt the accused were entitled to the benefit of doubt. It so happens that always it is we who are doubted!


Former Indian President late KR Narayanan called Laxmanpur Bathe, a ‘national shame’. May be, he too is considered as one of 'us'. Does it mean that however much we study, whatever position we achieve through our hardwork, we always remain, 'we'? Are our degrees not recognised and positions not valued? Yes, now we are coming to know that they are not. Otherwise, why will the chairs we sit on as officers and judges, cleansed once we vacate them?  What is happening now is even more shameful.


The High Court of Patna says that our evidence cannot be believed because: the FIRs reached the Chief Judicial Magistrate late; that names were not recorded on the first visit the day after the massacre by witnesses; that those who saw us getting killed cannot recognise the killers from the place where they were hiding; those who were alive did not have the courage to go onto the terrace to identify people who killed us; they cannot identify the killers from a distance...etc., etc. We thought justice is blind, but judges felt we are blind! Unfortunately, we ghosts cannot go and tell the judges that – yes, our brothers and sisters are telling the truth. Yes, it is they who had killed us. May be, even our words do not have a value. How can you see the face of the killer when you are getting killed? Did you not close your eyes of pain? Did you not close your eyes frightened? How did you see the face, when you were stabbed from behind? Do you have eyes on the back of your head? Questions, questions and more questions. Only to deprive us justice. They do not recognise that we turned ghosts just because our lives were cut short by these people!


There is a strong group of ghosts here. Our numbers are large and unfortunately they are not getting less. The space here for us is getting less and less. Here too, we are kept aside. We have separate bastis and separate schools and are supposed to do the same occupations. There is a talk that caste system is prevalent here too. Last heard, gods, it seems, many of them, we don't know, are from upper-castes. So don't think you can escape from all that is happening down there by just dying.


We realised that the only way to end our hardships is to fight. Fight against all those who are oppressing us and exploiting us. Bring together all the people who will stand by us. The most that might happen is, we will be turned into ghosts. But are we not turned into living ghosts daily, by all the injustices committed upon us. So better fight dying than live dying.