Dalits : Sitting Ducks

Of Caste and DNA

Sankara Narayanan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an earlier election rally in Bihar ridiculed the leaders like Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav that caste was in their DNA. Modi was only partially correct. That the caste is in the DNA of each Indian will be a far more correct assessment. People very often tom tom proudly in public, 'Hamara Aadmi Hain' meaning the subject is from one's caste. Different phrases in different regions—Amara Loka, Manavaadu, Nammaalu etc in various vernaculars reveal the same caste DNA.

Journalist Aakar Patel reveals how Patels dominate the legislature and cabinet of Gujarat. It tells up on the caste DNA of Gujarat. The number of upper caste ministers holding key portfolios in Modi's cabinet is another pointer. To check the caste DNA of Modi, it will be interesting to count how many Dwijas are there among the jumbo staff in PMO. Yet another way of calculating the caste DNA of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) govt is to study the caste configuration of central ministers from UP & Bihar, the two states going to polls soon.

Most of the time after independence, Hindi heartland states (undivided Bihar, undivided MP, Rajasthan and undivided UP) have all along been ruled by Cong or Jansangh or BJP, barring the spells of rules by the social justice heroes and Mayawati in Bihar & UP. Caste DNA of the two national parties will be more than revealing if one looks at the names of Chief Ministers ruled earlier and now ruling the Bimaru states.

The Apex Court was cornering the centre and the states to assess the correct strength of OBCs to decide the quota case. When It was forced on them to collect caste-wise socio-economic data, there was a chorus of NO from leaders cutting across parties. Those who opposed the caste-wise census were Somnath Chatterji, Subramanian Swamy, Murli Manohar Joshi, Anand Sharma and a few others. Does the august list not expose the caste DNA of India's Dwija netas?

A documentary produced by Cobrapost and screened in Delhi on Aug 17 exposes the caste DNA of BJP thoroughly. The Hindu newspaper (Aug 18) and Cobrapost documentary reveal that the retired Justice Amir Das, who inquired into the massacre of 58 Dalits in Lakshmanpur Bathe village in Jehanabad in 1997, has stated on record that BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Susheel Kumar Modi and CP Thakur, were responsible for instigating members of the Ranvir Sena, an armed private militia of landowning upper caste men, to commit the murders. Justice Das is also quoted naming Janata Dal leader Shivanand Tiwari as one of the politicians who also played a part in instigating the Ranvir Sena.

The on-camera confessions of the members of the Ranvir Sena make it amply clear that the dreaded private army had political patronage both at the state and at the centre, and they drop a few big names including those of a former prime minister (Late Chandrasekhar) who helped the outfit get modern weapons that the Indian Army sells as rejected scrap, a former finance minister (Yashwant Sinha) who is alleged to have helped the Sena with money and some political bigwigs belonging to the BJP who tried to influence the police probe.

Apart from political support right from the NDA ruling dispensation at the centre, the Ranvir Sena had staunch supporters in strongmen like Anand Mohan Singh and Arun Kumar. Pramod Singh, a Sena chieftain, recounts how Jehanabad LJP MP Arun Kumar would help them escape the police net after they had executed a mass murder.

When the nation wondered aloud about the source and purpose of the Purulia arms drop on December 17, 1995, an immediate beneficiary was the Ranvir Sena which got such lethal weapons as AK-47 by the dozen. Says Pramod Singh (Sena leader) : "Jaise Purulia mein gira... Purulia se bahut hathiyar aya yahan par (There was this arms drop in Purulia... we got a lot of weapons from there)."

Four major massacres of Dalit men, women and children occurred in Bihar between 1997 and 2000, and in all these cases the accused, who were convicted by the trial court, were mostly let off by the Patna High Court.

'Operation Black Rain', the sting operation Cobrapost conducted, exposes how justice has been delayed and denied to the victims. An undercover journalist (K Ashish) travelled to villages of Bihar in Jehanabad, Bhojpur and Gaya in search of the witnesses to the killings and many of them have deposed before the camera recounting the horrors of the incident.

The six Sena mass murderers viz Chandkeshwar, Ravindra Chaudhary, Pramod Singh, Bhola Singh, Arvind Kumar Singh and Siddhnath Singh not only reveal how they planned and carried out killings on such scale with precision and ruthlessness of a war machine but also candidly admit who trained them, who armed them, who financed them and who lent them political support, naming some big-time politicians.

The film also exposes the impunity with which the Sena carried out the murders. Chandkeshwar Singh has been captured on camera talking about how he murdered 32 Dalit villagers in Bathani Tola using mostly unlicensed weapons.

Some other Sena members also confessed to committing murders. All of them went scot free after acquittal. The documentary also contains an interview with Bhola Rai, who is considered absconding in the massacre cases, where he is quoted as saying the Sena members were trained by the military to use weapons. Pramod Singh narrated how weapons were procured for their army from the 1995 Purulia arms-drop incident.

Documentary also captures the history of the Ranvir Sena as narrated by Siddhnath Rai. Formed by Dharicharan Singh of Belaur village, Bhojpur district, to contain rural unrest among landless agricultural labourers, who had begun to organise themselves under the CPI-ML, the Ranvir Sena resorted to murder provoked by these labourers’ increased demands for better wages. The outfit was named Ranvir Sena after Dharicharan's kin, Ranvir Chaudhry, a retired army man.

In all, 144 were killed in the six massacres including several women and children. It was not a coincidence that the Justice Amir Das Commission of Inquiry was abruptly dismissed as soon as the JDU-BJP alliance came to power in Bihar, and Justice Das categorically states that it was because his report could have implicated some prominent politicos for their support to the private army he was asked to close the shop without submitting a report. Perhaps, never in the history of Independent India was an inquiry commission investigating mass murders asked to demit office.

The ruthless killers of the dreaded Sena did not spare even the pregnant women, tearing their wombs open and putting the unborn to death. This kind of psychopathic butchery was witnessed again in 2002 Gujarat riots when rioters tore open the wombs of pregnant Muslim women and cut the unborn into pieces in full public view as they rejoiced at their barbaric feat.

For one thing the upper caste leaders from BJP, RSS and JD (U) helped, instigated the Sena men to kill and protected them from prosecution after the massacres. Was the role played by Nitish Kumar, the then CM, to scuttle the probe and help the culprits escape from the clutches of law in any way a lesser crime? Lalu, the other social justice hero, would have certainly been aware of the perpetrators of the killings and later the help rendered by Nitish (his sworn enemy then) to ditch the probe. Why didn't he make it an issue during the JD–BJP rule? Less one talks about the Dalit leaders like Ramvilas Paswan, the better.

OBC DNA of Nitish & Lalu did not help the unfortunate Dalit victims. One can certainly draw a conclusion—whether the leaders are from OC or OBC or any C, Dalits are expendable. So much for the pure 'patriots' from BJP and social justice warriors of JD (U) and RJD.

Yet the PM takes pot shots at the caste DNA of his political rivals completely forgetting the shameful roles played by the upper caste leaders of his own party.

Vol. 48, No. 10, Sep 13 - 19, 2015