The acquittal of all the 26 accused in the 1997 massacre of Dalits in Laxmanpur Bathe village deepens the pessimism among agricultural workers in central Bihar. Such massacres do not happen any more, but the feudal relations that made them possible continue to destroy lives. By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta in Laxmanpur Bathe, Shankarbigha, and Sendani
Sikandar Chaudhary, who lost nine members of his family in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre, with his family on October 21. Photo:Ranjeet Kuma
This October, death came knocking at Sikandar Chaudhary's door again. A resident of Laxmanpur Bathe village in Bihar's Arwal district, Sikandar had witnessed nine members of his family being shot dead on December 1, 1997. In just two hours on that fateful night, he and many others were left orphaned as the Ranveer Sena, a militia of upper-caste landlords, went on a killing spree in his village. The massacre, perhaps the worst ever of Dalits in India, earned international notoriety for Laxmanpur Bathe. Sixty-one people were killed, including 27 women and 16 children. The then President, K.R. Narayanan, called it "a national shame". The official toll was 58.
At Shankarbigha village, where 23 people were killed in January 1999. Photo:Ranjeet Kumar