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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 47 New Delhi, November 14, 2015

Bihar Assembly Elections 2015: Did spectra of horror Ranvir Sena’s patrons and protagonists influence votes?

Monday 16 November 2015, by A K Biswas

The RJD, JD (U) and Congress coalition has inflicted a crushing defeat on the BJP and its allies in the just concluded Vidhan Sabha election 2015, successfully driving a lesson on political morality with desirable significance. It will help the vanquished see the intolerance, arrogance and aggression that jeopardised the civil society and peaceful life of the masses. In this context, it is only natural to focus on the reasons and factors for the victory of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress triumvirate and the humiliating drubbing of the BJP. Every success has many fathers. The national media has highlighted already many of them that universally apply to explain the misfortune of the party and its allies that scored a thumping victory in the parliamentary election only a year-and-half ago. There were few very powerful local factors to contribute to the strong rejection of the party so disdainfully. Those local factors are known only to Bihar, the theatre of the first high-profile defeat beyond Delhi. The BJP’s local leaders played a significant suicidal role to invite the BJP’s defeat in Bihar, perhaps not known to Delhi.

The senior leaders did not exercise control over the oversized ambitions of some of the masquerading leaders in Bihar. On June 1 last, a sprawling conference at the S.K. Memorial Hall, Gandhi Maidan, Patna celebrated the death anniversary of Brahmeshwar Nath Singh, who was the founder of the Ranvir Sena which carried out over thirty genocides between 1995 and 2000 claiming the lives of Dalit, minority and OBC women, children, old and young in Bihar almost unabated. This avatar of the savage episode in Bihar’s rural life was lionised at the conference as a martyr and the day was portrayed as ‘martyrdom day’. The conference demanded that the government install a life-size statue of the barbarous Ranvir Sena chief in Patna. This conference was attended by at least two former Union Ministers from Bihar who joined the chorus of paeans for the murdered Ranvir Sena founder. The shame of injustice to the families of the victims of Ranvir Sena has not died down from the psyche of the people with conscience across the nation. The anger is still burning intensely in the hearts of their near and dear ones. Such a shameless event played out in full view pompously before their eyes was a further threat to their future. Brahmeshwar had boasted that his men killed women because they gave birth to children. They murdered children because they, on growing up, joined the Naxalite forces.

The Hindi newspapers published from Patna, save one conspicuous exception, launched a concerted campaign portraying Brahmeshwar Singh’s murder day as his sahadat or martyrdom day. Local television channels too joined in the same campaign with the same earnestness. One of the former Union Ministers present at the conference was quoted by a Hindi newspaper as saying “People like Mukhiyaji, (his caste men addressed him reverently as such) are born on this Earth only once in 100-200 years.” Actually this was a caste conference that raised high adulation for the brute. The former Minister raised the murderer to the stature of an avatar.

Hindi language newspapers enjoy vast circulation through their widespread distribution networks in rural Bihar and people in tea stalls, dhabas, road corners read, share, analyse news and information with meticulous care and attention. So the deliberations of the conference on the dead Ranvir Sena chief were well publicised among the masses in the State.

This conference also demanded projection of Dr C. P. Thakur, a former Union Minister, as the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP. He is held as one of the prominent leaders of his caste. Some of the speakers also demanded that the prerequisite of their support to the BJP warranted that Thakur was declared the chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming election.

In the aftermath of the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre of 61 Dalits, the Amir Das Commission was instituted in 1996 to inquire into the politician-Ranvir Sena nexus. However, it began the probe only by 1999 because no facility was provided for starting the probe by the Commission. A host of politicians, including former Union Ministers Murli Manohar Joshi, C. P. Thakur, former Governor Kailashpati Mishra, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi and RJD’s Union Minister Akhilesh Prasad Singh, and Ramashray Prasad Singh had deposed before it either in person or through their advocates to reply to the queries on the accusations against them of links with the proscribed outfit. Ramashray Prasad was a Cabinet colleague of Nitish Kumar. Sadly the term extended during the Governor’s Rule before election in 2005 was scrapped by Nitish Kumar after he was sworn in as the Chief Minister. This was the result of a decision basically against the interest of justice for Dalits and other victims of massacres. This decision was prompted by vested interests no doubt.

The masses across Bihar did not fail to appreciate the grim and dreadful implications of the scare created by the Ranvir Sena patrons and protagonists. They foresaw that if the BJP won the election 2015 and C.P. Thakur was installed as the State’s Chief Minister, the day of the Ranvir Sena founder’s murder would be officially earmarked as the martyrdom day, his statue installed in Patna and these would be carried out by the would-be CM. So he was stalled from dreaming any longer. When Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, incidentally, C.P. Thakur was sacked from the Cabinet for his many questionable deeds. But in Bihar a slogan went up, “Bhumihar, BJP ka kahar nehi” implying that the Bhumihar cannot be the coolies of the BJP.

The new government has urgent responsi-bilities to establish the rule of law to discipline the unruly elements. Advised wrongly by interested men close to the Chief Minister, the previous government had shun responsibilities to provide justice to victims of the Ranvir Sena carnage. The Patna High Court acquitted many Ranvir Sena convicts on arbitrary and perverse grounds inviting nationwide denouncement from right-thinking people. The concerned cases should be challenged before the Supreme Court for quashing the acquittals most expeditiously. Those cases of massacres, which are pending trial, should be expedited for delivery of justice. Irritants to these actions need to be removed with promptitude.

There will be resistance from vested interests, who may be leaders and/or bureaucrats. But denial of justice any longer will invite anger and desperation of the masses.

The government of the people must serve the people. To cater to the well-heeled will bring a bad name and that too soon. So this eventuality must be guarded against. Social justice needs to be strengthened. These actions will please the victims and their well-wishers.

The author is a retired IAS officer and former Vice-Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University, Muzzarpur (Bihar).