By Abhishek Jha:
Cobrapost, an investigative media platform, screened a documentary ‘Operation Black Rain’ on Monday, 17th August in New Delhi. The documentary, which shows members of the banned Ranveer Sena confessing to organising and participating in several planned massacres of Dalits in Bihar between 1994 and 2000, was the result of a year-long investigation by Cobrapost associate editor K. Ashish who posed as a film-maker working on a film on Ranveer Sena. The sting operation clips also show the perpetrators claiming support of leading national and state politicians.
The investigation by Cobrapost, the documentary says, was started after the accused were acquitted by the Patna High Court. Aniruddha Bahal, the founder-editor of Cobrapost, said at the screening that the police could do better if reporters could discover so much about the cases, The Hindu reported. An appeal against the HC verdict is pending in the Supreme Court.
The documentary shows six Ranveer Sena men- Chandkeshwar alias Chandreshwar, Pramod Singh, Bhola Singh, Arvind Kumar Singh, Siddhnath Singh and Ravindra Chaudhry- confessing to six major massacres of Dalits, mostly in Central Bihar: Bathani Tola, Ikwari, Lakshmanpur Bathe, Shankar Bigha, Sarthua, and Miyapur. The massacres started when Dalits started organising under the banner of CPI-ML (Liberation) to demand due wages from their upper caste landlords.
One of the close associates of the Sena chief Barmeshwar Singh Mukhiya, Siddharth Rai, shows no compunction as he tries to justify the murder of infants and the old: “Humare India mein humara dharm jo hai aisa nahi batata hai ki burhe ko marega toh paap nahi lagega aur jawan ko marega toh paap lagega … aisa koi kanoon nahi hai ki aap jawan ko maroge tabhi bees saal saja aur burhe ko maroge toh doh saal saja aur larka ko maroge tho pachas saal saja. Aisa koi kanoon nahi hai (In India, our religion does not say that if you kill an old man, you won’t become a sinner or that if you kill a young man you will become a sinner … then there is no such law which says that if you kill a boy, you will face imprisonment for 20 years, if you kill an old man you get 2 years jail or if you kill a child you get a term of 50 years. There is no such law).”
The other men in the documentary make similar chilling confessions. The massacres were carefully planned with arms training provided to the foot soldiers of the Sena by army men on vacation, meetings were conducted for planning with receipts being sent for attack, reconnaissance done, and even posts designated for the members of the Sena.
In what is likely to create a furore before the Bihar elections, the Ranveer Sena men in the documentary claim that they had support from the then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar and senior BJP leaders like Murli Manohar Joshi, and Sushil Modi.
Important also is the statement of Retd. Justice Amir Das who headed a Commission of Inquiry (set up by the Laloo Yadav government in 1997) that was abruptly closed immediately after the JD(U)-BJP alliance came to power in Bihar in 2005. Speaking of pressure tactics employed by Murli Manhor Joshi, he says, “Massacre ke baad Senari gaon me ye gaye hain raid karne ke liye…aapko khabar mili aur aap aate hain aur IO ko dhamkate hain ki agar aap ne aisa kiya to hum power me ayenge to aapko batate hain (he has gone to Senari village after the massacre for a raid…you get the news and you come and threaten the IO (Investigating Officer) that if you do this then I will show you (what I can do) when I come to power.” He also names Shivanand Tewari, C.P. Thakur, and Sushil Kumar Modi as supporters of the Sena.
With names of members of both the JD(U) and the BJP being named, it remains to be seen what political play the revelations will set forth in Bihar, where the two parties are at loggerheads ahead of the elections.
Arms And ammunition
In blood-curdling accounts, some victims told Cobrapost how ruthlessly their relatives and children were murdered and, sometimes, butchered after being murdered. This organised mass massacre was conducted with weapons rejected by the Army, the perpetrators say. Pramod Singh, for instance, says that some weapons were procured from the Purulia arms drop of December 1995. That Indian army members trained these people goes on to show the extent of support that these casteist goons extracted.
The outcome of this documentary, however, is most likely to be silence. Whatever outward bickering might go on in Bihar, the warring factions are likely to unite to save their own. Not only does the documentary expose the BJP, it also challenges the incumbent Chief Minister’s credentials of being a champion of the Dalit cause. Therefore, silence wouldn’t be surprising. What remains to be seen is whether the victims, who were aghast after the acquittals, get justice in this country of the high and mighty.