Violence rocks Dalit hostel as Patna varsity looks the other way


RAHI GAIKWAD, The Hindu Feb 7,2013

  • A portion of the Bhimrao Ambedkar Welfare Hostel of the Patna University where Dalit students are staying. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar
    A portion of the Bhimrao Ambedkar Welfare Hostel of the Patna University where Dalit students are staying. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar
  • A portion of the Bhimrao Ambedkar Welfare Hostel of the Patna University where Dalit students are staying. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar
    A portion of the Bhimrao Ambedkar Welfare Hostel of the Patna University where Dalit students are staying. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

A mob burst on the scene as night fell. Equipped with hockey sticks, bricks, stones, firearms and crude bombs it prepared for an assault.

“You are Harijans,” it yelled. “You have no right to read and write. Your work is to mend shoes and chappals. We will keep you as servants in our houses. Your ancestors did the same work. You leave the hostel or else there will be a massacre.” This is part of a police statement given by a Dalit student residing in the Bhimrao Ambedkar Welfare Hostel of Patna University (PU) facility.

Last week, the hostel witnessed fierce caste violence in which three Dalit students were injured.

“Around 30 men came shouting Brahmeshwar Mukhiya zindabad, Mukhiya amar rahe [Long live the Mukhiya] and Ambedkar ko phuk do [Destroy Ambedkar]. They stood outside the hostel and started throwing stones. They dragged and beat up a student. Firing shots and bombs rent the air. We ran inside the hostel. All we had to defend against the armed attack were brick pieces used to support the cots in our room,” Satyaprakash, a student at the Ambedkar hostel, told The Hindu.

‘Mukhiya’ refers to the slain Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh.

Located in Patna’s ‘coaching district’, the hostel forms part of the Saidpur hostel campus of PU. Facing it is a cluster of five hostels for general category students, collectively called the ‘Saidpur hostel’, which has gained notoriety over the years for nurturing hooligans and becoming a virtual den of anti-socials from the landowning Bhumihar caste, particularly from the badlands of Jehanabad district.

“While students from other castes reside in the Saidpur hostel, since very early days, it has been dominated by the “so-called” students of the landlord caste, mostly Bhumihars. The boys come mostly from Jehanabad, Gaya and Nalanda districts. Though it’s for all students, including those from SC, when students are enrolled, they either belong to the Saidpur hostel or the Ambedkar hostel,” official sources told The Hindu.

A clear topographical division on caste lines thus separates the two hostels. “Yahan par Jehanabad ke khas jati ke khas logon ka dabang hai [A particular caste from Jehanabad wields clout here]. Only a Jehanabad Bhumihar can stay here without being harassed. Others; say a Yadav boy comes along; he is beaten up and made to flee. The miscreants then get their own relatives to stay. Many of them don’t even know where PU is. There is a terrible situation here,” a Saidpur resident told The Hindu on condition of anonymity.

Gangster Guddu Sharma, who was shot dead in Delhi a few years ago, was a product of the Saidpur hostel. In fact, this hostel is one of the reasons why a police check post in the area was converted into a full-fledged police station in 2007.

A common power grid that supplies electricity to the entire neighbourhood is one of the key triggers for such attacks, as it was last week.

“That evening, there was a power cut at the Ambedkar hostel, but not at the Saidpur general hostel. The Ambedkar students went to the electricity office, situated on the same campus, to take stock of the mater. Seeing them, the Saidpur boys hurtled down and started hurling caste abuses, such as ‘Harijans’ ‘dusadhs’ and ‘chamars’ [all lower caste names]’,” as per another police statement of a student.

“When we asked for power supply, they said, ‘Have you ever seen light in your life?’” Satyaprakash recalled.

The official sources said, in a situation where the Ambedkar hostel had power and Saidpur hostel did not, there was immense pressure on electricity officials to cut the supply to the Ambedkar hostel. “Seeing an equal distribution of facilities stokes the caste jealousies of the Saidpur hostellers, Many times fights over power supply take the form of caste clashes,” an official source said.

“There have been times,” said a general student, “when the whole area is plunged into darkness, but only the Saidpur hostel is lit.” Disconnecting water supply to the Ambedkar hostel is another means of showing caste dominance. The tap dries up at 9 a.m. and its water is dirty. At any given point of time, a few students suffer from jaundice.

At the heart of the matter, said students, lies plain caste hatred, “a determined effort to display caste superiority.”

The police have registered an FIR under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act. Five persons — Atul Shekhar, Amit Kumar, Ashutosh Kumar, Nupendra Kumar and Shishuranjan Kumar — are under arrest.

Sources told The Hindu that the police initially arrested 10 persons, but high-level manoeuvring facilitated the release of five of them. There are also complaints that while the real fish get away, “legal students” get wrongly implicated in cases.

So acute is the problem of “illegal occupancy” that even authorities are at the end of their tether. Officials put the size of illegal occupants to a whopping 80 per cent.

“The number is so huge that once even the Special Task Force [personnel] was beaten up by them. The unauthorised boys know nothing will happen. PU does not want to interfere. Perhaps they are scared. You need the Rapid Action Force to crack down. They have been staying there for years,” an authoritative source from the university, who did not wish to named, told The Hindu.

The police, on their part, perceive a limited role for themselves in the matter. “We have raised the matter with the university in vain,” they said.

When asked, PU proctor Kirteshwar Prasad told The Hindu: “We are trying to get them vacated. We are on the job. We had written to the administration. We will write to them, namely the senior superintendent of police and the district magistrate, who are the competent authority.”

The incident received biased coverage in the press, according to the Ambedkar hostel students. “The news report in a leading Hindi daily pinned the blame on us. It said we were the ones to attack. Their numbers are huge. How can we possibly attack them” they asked.

An official source concurred. “That report is totally false. We were on the ground, we know what happened. The report paints an entirely wrong picture. The local media has played a very bad role in this.”

Despite arrests, the trouble is far from being over. There are indications that in light of this incident, the Saidpur hostel is looking at acquiring more arms. Financial contributions collected for the upcoming Saraswati puja could provide the means.

The spectre of routine caste violence looms large over the Dalit students. They dare not take the short-cut to the university, as it passes through the Saidpur hostel.

 

Victim of custodial sexual violence – attempts immolation


PTI-  June 16,2012

 

Sitamarhi: A Maoist woman prisoner on Saturday suffered minor burns after attempting a self-immolation in prison alleging that her modesty was outraged by a jail official in Bihar‘s Sitamarhi district, police sources said.

Shivani poured kerosene oil on herself before setting herself alight but was saved by jail guards who immediately covered her with a blanket, the sources said.

She accused the jail superintendent of outraging her modesty, a charge that was denied by the official, they said.

She was treated at the jail hospital for minor burns on her hands, they said. An investigation was also being made into her allegation, they said.

Joint Statement on Travesty of Justice in BATHANITOLA JUDGEMENT


We are deeply distressed and shocked at the judgment of Patna High Court (Bihar) on 16th April 2012 acquitting the upper caste/feudal murderers of the ghastly Bhatanitola Massacre in 1996. This is not only a severe miscarriage of justice but a massacre of the very notion of justice. Thus it is akin to the judicial massacre of the poor dalits and muslims of Bathanitola. This Patna High Court judgment not only makes a mockery of the lofty slogans of the Indian ruling classes like dignity , democracy, human rights, justice right to life and dignity but also shamelessly exposes the class/caste biasness of various organs of the Indian State including the judiciary. The upper caste landlord, contractor, mafia, bureaucracy, police, and political executive nexus is quite evident.

 

On 11th April 1996 Ranveer Sena, the private army of the upper caste landlords cold bloodily murdered 21 people poor dalits and muslims in Bathanitola in Bhojpur distict, Bihar. 3 toddlers (one of them only 3 months old), 6 children, 11 women were cruelly butchered by the Ranvir Sena .

 

This barbaric massacre was done in broad daylights in the presence of a large contingent of police; this clearly indicates the nexus between police and upper caste landlords in Bihar. The day after this ghastly massacre Kisun Choudhary registered a FIR in Sahar Police Station against 33 people involved in the massacre. In 2010 the Ara Sessions Court  has convicted 23 people for this massacre sentencing three to death and 20 to life imprisonment. But the Patna High Court has overturned the conviction and acquitted all the accused.

 

The fact that, 16 years after this massacre not a single person stands convicted for the brutal and barbaric slaughter of innocents, raises disturbing questions about whether the oppressed and the poor victims of massacres can expect justice in our courts.

 

It is relevant that the massacre was preceded by a series of attacks and a campaign of open terror against the people of Bhathani Tola by the Ranveer Sena, which enjoyed the support of several powerful politicians and parties. In spite of repeated intimations and appeals to the district police and administration no preventive action was taken. When the blood bath played out for hours and the mob of perpetrators used swords and guns to butcher people and set fire to homes, the police remained a mute and passive spectator. This complicity of the police and administration within the perpetrators continued after the massacre, leading to the weakening of the case against the accused, as noted by the Patna High Court. Shamefully, the three police eye witnesses to the massacre deposed in court as witness for the defense.

 

The verdict of the Patna High Court, acquitting the butchers of Bathanitola has shaken our faith in the judiciary and blatantly exposed its class/caste prejudice in this case.

 

In the past, respected judges of various courts have given similar verdicts of the cases of large scale massacres. In the decades of 1980s and 1990s many dreaded private armies of the upper castes, such as Brhmarshi Sena, Satyendra Sena, Savarna Libration front, Sunlight Sena, and Ranveer Sena had committed dozens of massacres. The victims of these massacres were the poor dalits and some of the most backward sections of the society. For example, the Ranveer Sena alone killed 116 people (with a large fraction of them being women and children) in 3 massacres of Laksmanpur Bathe (1997) Shankar Bigha (1999) and Miya Pur (2000).

 

The nexus between upper caste landlords, police and the judiciary is evident not only in the recent acquittal of the butchers of Bathanitola but also the acquittal of dreaded upper caste gangsters in the past. Ranveer Sena’s head Bramheshwar Singh had personally led over a dozen such massacres in Bhojpur, Jahanbad, Gaya and Aurangabad districts. He even admitted to his role to the police and the media. Even then he was released from prison in July 2010. Similarly, the head of the Savarna Liberation Front Ramadhar Singh alias Diamond, was also acquitted by the court. It should be noted that Savarna Liberation Front was directly responsible for brutal killings in Sawan Bigha (Jahanabad) and Main–Barsimha (Gaya). At present, most of the leaders of these criminal gangs have either been acquitted or granted very nominal punishment by the courts.

 

With immense anxiety and concern we underline the oppressive class/caste nature of the Indian state and its various organs like police, bureaucracy, and judiciary. Right to life, dignity and equality have proved to be a joke since the day one these rights were proclaimed by the constitution.

For decade we have been watching with horror the anti poor, dalit, women, minority judgments of various courts in India. Some glaring  example are like the Tamil Nadu High Court verdict in the Kilve mani massacre of 1969, which had found it astonishing and difficult to believe that rich men, owning vast extents of land, one of whom even possessed a car, could be guilty of burning alive 42 dalits. In the Bhawnri Devi case the learned judges of Rajasthan had said how upper caste men  can rape a lower caste women like Bhawnri Devi. The Durg Sessions Court had convicted Paltan Mallah and the owner of Simplex group for the murder of Shankar Guha Niyogi but the Jabalpur High Court let them scott off. The class and caste character of the Indian Judiciary is crystal clear.  On one hand while the perpetrators of Bhathanitola massacred are acquitted, on other hand the Indian State has witnessed brutal repression on the struggle poor like the Adivasi, dalits, minorities, women and oppressed nationalities. To sell of the natural resources to the national and international big business the Indian state has brutally launched Operation Green Hunt against the poorest of the poor who are struggling to save their land, forest, water, mines, dignity and livelihood.

We are watching with horror thousands of encounter deaths, torture, custodial rapes from Kashmir to North East and from Jangal Mahal to the forests of Odisha, Chhhatisgarh and Jharkhand. What happened to Soni Sori in police custody is a chilling reminder of this reality.

We condemn the blatant class and caste prejudice of the Bathanitola judgment and appeal to all the sensitive sections of the society to raise their voice against it.

STUDENTS   FOR   RESISTENCE-  DELHI

INDIAN SOCIAL ACTION FORUM- (INSAF)

Chittaranjan Singh-               National organising secretary PUCL

Arjun Prasad Singh-             PDFI

Ajit Jha-                              Samajwadi  Jan Parishad

Kiran Shaheen-                    Media Action Group, Delhi

Vijay Pratap-                       Socialist Front / Lok Rajnitik Manch

Kamayani Bali Mahabal-      Lawyer, Activist Mumbai

Nayan Jyoti-                       Krantikari Naujawan Sabha

Sourav Banerjee-                Bigul Mazdoor Dasta

Sunil Kumar-                      Pragatishil Mazdoor union, Delhi

P.K. Sundaram-                  Research Scholar JNU

Mohamed Usman-              Research Scholar JNU

Anand Krisna Raj-              Research Scholar JNU

Rashid Ali                          Independent Film Maker, Delhi

Shah Alam-                        Independent Film  Maker, Delhi

Shahnaz Malek-                 Armaan Mahila Sanghathan, Ahmedabad

Asit Das-                           Writer Activist, Delhi

 

 

(Please send your endorsement to- asit1917@gmail.com )

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