| Riot victims at Laxmanpur Bathe village in Arwal. Telegraph file picture |
Patna, Oct. 18: The massacre of seven persons, including a suspected member of the banned Ranvir Sena, in Aurangabad yesterday, has revived a ghost from the past.
“The state has witnessed an incident of retaliatory violence after a gap of over 12 years. The last time such retaliatory violence was seen here was in 2000 when the Ranvir Sena killed 35 people at Mianpur in Aurangabad district. In the latest incident, Maoists targeted the persons because of the acquittal of 26 accused in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre in Arwal district. This has the potential of triggering another round of massacres and counter-massacres in the Naxalite-hit districts of Bihar,” said a police officer.
“It is a very serious incident. The police must stop the backlash if they want to prevent further violence,” former director-general of police Ashish Ranjan Sinha told The Telegraph on Friday.
Sinha, now state vice-president of RJD, occupied key posts in the police headquarters in the 1990s when Bihar witnessed a series of violent clashes between the Maoists and the Ranvir Sena. He had witnessed these massacres closely. “The private armies have the potential to regroup and reactivate themselves,” he said.
Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriyawadi Kisan Mahasabha holds the reputation of being a reincarnation of the dreaded Ranvir Sena. Indubhushan, son of deceased Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Mukhiya and himself a mastermind of several massacres, leads it.
“The murder of our men in Aurangabad was state-sponsored. We see it as a challenge. We do not start a fight. But if someone does, we finish the fight. Hum kisi ko chhertey nahi hai. Lekin koyee humko chherey, to hum usey chhortey nahi (We do not disturb anyone. But if someone disturbs us, we do not spare them),” Indubhushan told The Telegraph. He said the Aurangabad massacre has “awakened farmers”. However, he refused to divulge his strategy. “It’s a secret.”
Bihar has a tradition of caste-based private armies. Police records show that over a dozen private armies took birth in Maoist-hit areas and operated in various districts to protect the interests of the landed gentry. They were all dominated by a particular caste and became dormant after a period of time, as its cadre were either killed or dispersed from the killing zones of Bihar. In 1979, the Kuer Sena used to operate from Bhojpur.
In 1983, the Bhumi Sena operated in Patna, Nawada, Nalanda, and Jehanabad. Simultaneously, Lorik Sena operated in three districts. In 1989, there was the Sunlight Sena. In 1990, Swaran Liberation Front operated in Gaya and Aurangabad. Ranvir Sena was the most violent private army. It took birth in 1994 and spread to six districts, executing the most gruesome massacres in Laxmanpur Bathe and Bathani Tola.
“Ranvir Sena was dominated by the bhumihars but it had also the support of other castes. The Maoists raise funds by taking a cut from contactors. Similarly, the Ranvir Sena sustains itself by taking monthly donations from landlords,” said a senior officer, stressing that after 2000, the Ranvir Sena disintegrated owing to inner conflict and as tempers had cooled down.
“But members of the banned outfit still possess large quantity of arms and ammunition,” said a senior police officer.
The Nitish government could have taken credit for the absence of massacres during its reign in the state.
“However, the massacre in Aurangabad is because of the government’s soft stand on Maoists. This massacre can restart a dangerous trend,” feared BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.