The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rioters many, guilty few

Bhagalpur, June 18: Too little, too late and too pat would sum up the conviction of 14 people by a Bhagalpur court today for the massacre of 116 men, women and children at Logain, a village 26km from Bhagalpur, in October 1989.

Several hundred “outsiders” had streamed into Logain, killed members of the minority community, destroyed their property and buried them in a mass-grave, over which they then planted cauliflowers to camouflage their crime.

The grave was discovered 44 days later and it took over three months to exhume the decomposed bodies.

But police could file charges against only 24 of them. Six of them died during the trial, four of them disappeared and were declared proclaimed offenders while the remaining fourteen were found guilty today, their sentence to be pronounced on June 27.

There was high drama in the courtroom of additional district and sessions judge Shambhunath Mishra when the police were asked to arrest all the 14 accused, who have been out on bail. One of them, Jaiprakash Mandal, who had appeared before the court with the others, was found missing. Finding he had escaped from the court, a warrant of arrest was issued against him.

Significantly, barring a policeman and a chowkidar, the remaining 12 convicted people happened to be residents of Logain. They were predictably unhappy with the conviction, claiming that they have been made scapegoats while the real culprits, who were all outsiders, have got away.

Several survivors of the Logain massacre had publicly levelled charges against a local upper-caste village-head, who had allegedly instigated the massacre because he wanted to grab the land. But the village headman was not even charged.

One of the survivors of Logain, Nazim, who escaped by hiding in paddy fields for 48 hours, exclaimed: “God is great. He has punished some of the culprits but has spared many more.”

The oldest among the Logain accused convicted today was Sukhdeo Mandal, 82. He leaned on two of his grandsons and was virtually carried to the courtroom. He broke down and claimed that though none of the villagers was identified as culprits by survivors or relatives of the victims, police had rounded them up because they were soft targets in the village and “available”.

Wife of another accused, Kuldip Mandal, also wondered aloud: “We don’t know why the real rioters have been spared.”

Recalled Kunti Devi: “It was in the morning and I was busy cooking when I saw a large number of unknown people streaming into the village. My husband tried to stop some of them but he was beaten up. I took him indoor and closed the doors and windows. But today he has been found guilty in the case.”

More than 600 cases relating to the month-long communal riots were registered in the district. So far, various courts have found almost 200 persons guilty. However, justice still eludes the victims and a judicial commission set up by Nitish Kumar government is yet to submit its report.

The chief minister, besides announcing a series of measures for the victims, has written to the Centre to rehabilitate them on the pattern of 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

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