‘Give us weapons, not compensation’

Rabri Devi called a woman and tried to ask her something. The woman was seething with anger. I remember her words even today. “We don’t need your money. Give us weapons. We will deal with them ourselves”

Shankar Bigha was located on the other side of a small canal near Balidad, on the road leading from Patna to Aurangabad. We had to walk a short distance from the road to reach it. The village was a portrait of the feudal cruelty of the Ranvir Sena. Four bodies were lying in a hut. Between them, a little girl (around 4 years of age), was gulping rice from an aluminium plate. Probably, on the night she was killed, the mother of the little one had served rice to her. Now, this girl was orphaned. The scene shook us. Tears welled in our eyes. We could not utter a word. The little child was looking alternately at the camera and at her plate.

dsc01773Among the 23 who were killed in this incident, five were women and seven were children. This was extreme barbarity. Even a 10-month-old boy and his 3-year-old brother were not spared. We walked on. At one place, four or five bodies were lying on a cot – wrapped in a red flag. Ramjatan Sharma, Rameshwar Prasad, Santosh, Mahanand and many other leaders of CPI-ML had reached there early in the morning. When the (then) chief minister Rabri Devi and Lalu Prasad Yadav arrived, people standing near the bodies started shouting “Ranvir Sena Murdabad” and “Muawaza nahi, hathiyar do” (Don’t give compensation, give us weapons). Lalu tried to reason with them but they would have none of it. Rabri Devi called a woman and tried to ask her something. The woman was seething with anger. I remember her words even today. “We don’t need your money. Give us weapons. We will deal with them ourselves”, she told the chief minister. Suddenly, there was an uproar. The police had caught a person called Baban Singh. The villagers started demanding that he be handed over to them and that they be allowed to punish him. The DM and SP pacified them with great difficulty. Rabri Devi announced that a special court would be set up to try the case and that the guilty would be punished within six months.

Ramnath, a resident of the village, told us that the number of dead would have been much higher had the people of the neighbouring Dhewai and Roopsagar Bigha villages not shouted for help. The Dhobhi Bigha village lies to the east of Shankar Bigha. Twenty-one people of Dhobhi Bigha were named in the list of the accused. In Shankar Bigha, all but one house were temporary shelters or had thatched roof. That was proof that all those killed were poor and landless. The assailants could not break into the house of Lallan Saav as his was the only house made of bricks and with a strong door. “I heard someone whistle thrice and then they shouted ‘Ranvir Baba ki Jai’,” he told journalists.

It was being speculated that the village had been targeted by Ranvir Sena as it was a base of the Naxalite organization Party Unity. It was also said that the massacre was carried out to avenge the murder of Nawal Singh, one of the accused in Mein Barsimha murder case. That was a dark and sad chapter in the history of central Bihar, which witnessed a series of massacres before and after Shankar Bigha.

Published in the March 2015 issue of the Forward Press magazine


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