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Just 4km in distance but an ocean apart

- Ekbari and Bathani Tola villages in Ara still battle scars left by massacres of the past
Ekbari village on Ara-Sahar road. The memorial site at Bathani Tola village.
Telegraph pictures

Ara (Bhojpur), April 13: Ekbari and Bathani Tola villages in Bhojpur district are just 4km apart but an Indian Ocean could fit in between, such is the fissure among its residents.

The differences stem from old carnage wounds, not quite festering but yet to heal in this Maoist-affected Sahar block. The murder of CPI-ML(Liberation) leader Budhram Paswan in March, allegedly at the behest of influential people from an upper caste, was a crude attempt to reopen these wounds.

Paswan, a block secretary of the CPI-ML (Liberation), was attacked near Charpokhari block. He was returning to Repura village in Ara constituency on March 22, after attending a meeting to finalise party candidate Raju Yadav’s candidature. Six people, including two accused in the 1998 Bathani Tola massacre , are named accused in the murder case.

In the election here, Raju Yadav is crossing swords with R.K. Singh of the BJP, Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha of the RJD and sitting MP Meena Singh of the JD(U). The BJP candidate holds the Bihar government responsible for such carnages. They have shown a soft corner to perpetrators of massacres in the past, he said.

Bathani Tola, about 4km southwest of Ekbari village, which witnessed the killing of seven members of an upper caste family in the early 1970s, is dominated by Dalits. The memory of the brutal killing of their brethren by the suspected Ranvir Sena, a private militia of landlords, in 1996 is still fresh on their minds. In all, 21 Dalits, including infants and women, were butchered by Sena activists.

A memorial to the deceased greets visitors to Bathani Tola, about 130km southwest of Patna. The memorial came up in the middle of the village lest residents forget the “horror” their opponents inflicted on them. “We live with the sad memory of the demise of our close relatives,” said Srikrishna Chaudhary, who lost his wife and two daughters in the gruesome incident on July 11, 1996.

The village has new roads and electrification work is under way. “We have government schools in which the wards of all Dalits study. What is lacking is the active support of the state administration. What happened in the carnage is no secret,” he said with a heavy heart. (Patna High Court acquitted the accused in the case in 2012).


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