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UPPER CASTE ARMIES RUN AMOK IN RABRI LAND 

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By FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Patna
  • Published 27.04.00
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Patna, April 27 :     A rise in upper caste fringe armies similar to the Ranbir Sena and the spate of Dalit killings has put the Rabri Devi government in a tight spot. Among the four persons killed yesterday by some upper caste people in Rohtas district was a BSP district president, Upendra Das. He was part of a marriage party heading towards Sultanpur village when the upper caste gang abducted him and six others. They were taken to a desolate road of the village, handcuffed and shot at from close range. Four of the victims, all belonging to the Ravidas community, died on the spot. Three others are now in a critical condition in Rohtas Hospital. On April 15, three members of another Dalit village, Panki in Biharsheriff district, had been killed in a similar way. The private armies of the local landlords had entered the houses of the Dalits and dragged them out before shooting them. Though the Ranbir Sena did not claim responsibility for the above killings, the RJD politicians and activists of the People's Union for Civil Liberties allege that at least five private upper caste armies were involved in resisting the Dalit villagers from staking their claim on land and wages. In all the cases, the Dalits were branded as Naxalites before being gunned down. Among the caste armies killing the Dalits in Jehanabad, Purnia, Gaya and some parts of Nalanda is a new outfit called Pandav Sena. It is headed by one Sanjay Singh, a Rajput, who claims to have killed at least 12 persons, most of them belonging to backward caste communities. After the Rohtas killing, chief minister Rabri Devi sent Cabinet members Ramai Ram, Jayprakash Yadav and Shyam Razac to Sultanpur. She also announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the next of kin of the victims. and proposed to set up a statue of Das. BSP chief Kanshi Ram, who is expected in a day or two in Patna, had earlier threatened that the party might withdraw support to the Rabri government if the Dalit killings continued. According to minister for small irrigation Jayprakash Yadav, who visited Rohtas yesterday, most of the caste armies were supported by "feudal forces in a village represented by the BJP and the RSS". Ramai Ram, himself a Dalit, has directed the state police's task force to launch a crackdown on the new outfits. Sanjay Singh took some journalists to an undisclosed destination in Jehanabad and displayed an array of sophisticated weapons including AK 47, carbines, steinguns, sophisticated explosives. He said: "You have been publicising the Naxalites' power. We are not behind." He said his outfit, active in Jehanabad, Gaya and some parts of Rohtas, had vowed to eliminate the Naxalites. The state police's intelligence websites, which had been updating information on the Ranvir Sena, has to now accommodate data on at least five more upper caste armies some of which sprouted about six months back. These include the Pandav Sena, Niraj Sena, Trimurti Sena and the North Liberation army. Each group has its own pockets of influence. The intelligence reports hinted that Ranvir Sena chief Barmeswar Singh is working towards a consolidation of all these caste armies to fight the Naxalites. According to CPI (ML-Liberation) state secretary member Umesh Singh, whose party workers have been bearing the brunt of the caste armies' onslaught, most of these groups were enjoying political patronage and were into politics. "Once you are in politics, you assume an inflated role of yourself and can even call the press to display your weapons," he said. State home commissioner U.N. Panjiyar said most of the new outfits were gangsters trying to graduate to the role of a caste army. Some of them parted ways from the Ranvir Sena to form their own groups. "When a big group splits, it fragments into smaller units before melting away. The smaller groups may be an outcome of our crackdown on the Ranvir Sena," a senior IG of the state police said.