Bihar lynching: Caste truth

24Sep07

Following is the fact finding report on Bihar lynching reported by the Commission for Nomadic tribes.

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“The Myth of Vigilante Justice in Bihar”

We at  the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes are seriously concerned about 10 members of a nomadic community Kureri being beaten to death by villagers, and then at the recent news coverage of the Vaishali incident in the national media. The press coverage of the event in the national, and even the international English media has been dangerously misleading. If not challenged, such coverage can form the basis in the public domain for atleast partial justification for this and similar barbarous events. Hence we feel it is very important to counter those accounts with some facts.

A team comprising of the Chairman, Member and the Director (Research) of the Commission visited Bihar on September 15th and 16th, 2007, and investigated the issue of the so called vigilante justice in detail. We wish to put it on record that our findings show that the Vaishali incident was decidedly not a case of vigilante justice as it is being termed in the media.

The media reported extensively that villagers in the concerned area have been fed up with frequent robberies and had formed themselves into small patrolling groups who kept awake at night to protect the village. We saw no such ‘vigilance committees’ in the neighbourhood of the village where the burglary took place on September 13, 2007. The affected family as well as the neighbours themselves told us that they were asleep when the robbery took place, and the affected family woke up early in the morning to discover the robbery, and alerted the neighbours. Hence reports that a patrolling group keeping vigilance overwhelmed the thieves who were caught red handed, and recovered the stolen property from them, are also absolutely untrue.

From the point of view of the Commission, it is also shocking how an impression of the victims being thieves was initially  ‘confirmed’ not just by the officials as well as the media.  The Commission made its own enquires with the survivor of the incident. Within minutes of the Commission identifying the purpose of its visit to the survivor, Ranjit Kureri, he stated that under the pressure of Rajapakar police personnel, he had been forced to confess that 11 of them had indeed gone on a thieving expedition that night. Answering our question as to why he repeatedly made this ‘confession’ in front of officials as well as the media, he said he was assured by the police that he will be released in case he gave such a version. He added that he had been threatened that he will be dealt with brutally in case he did not.  In fact, the Commission found him eagerly awaiting his release on the morning of its visit to the hospital where he is under arrest, i.e. September 16, 2007 because Ranjit had apparently been assured that he will be released that morning.

It needs to be urgently investigated by the ongoing CID enquiry as to how false accounts about vigilante justice were systematically circulated in the media, and by whom. We were told that after this incident, the police had immediately made its own preliminary enquiries about this nomadic community, and did not find evidence of any criminal history, even of petty thefts, regarding members of this group,. The SP, Vaishali, with whom we spoke in detail, and who has now been transferred, had in fact shown scepticism about the victims being thieves even before we could establish it through our own enquiries.

There is also appalling confusion in the media and among the Bihar officials about who the victimised communities were. The press has been calling them ‘Nats/Nuts’ and this does not seem to be true.  The only survivor of the massacre said that the victims belonged to Kureri community and categorically stated that they have nothing to do with Nuts. Subsequently, in the local press, the word Banjara is now doing the rounds, which seems to be an official generic term for all ‘gypsies’ and nomads. Again, this just shows that the administration in Bihar has no clear idea about the nomadic communities which reside in the state today. The Bihar SC list, in fact, includes ‘Kurariar’, recognising the existence of such a community in the state. When checked from anthropological sources, it is confirmed that the Kurariar community is semi-nomadic, and has a number of synonyms in Bihar, including Kureri, Karori, Dhami, Dhamin etc.  The Commission was unable to trace even a single member of the affected community. We repeatedly made a request to meet women and children of this group in Vaishali,  but they were not traceable by the police. The Commission strongly demands that

a) Since the victims were not thieves, all possible social and political angles to this brutal killing should be carefully investigated.
b) The only survivor should be given adequate protection, especially from people who may try to harm him because of their interest in destroying evidence.
c) The Commission did not get the impression that the survivor was being taken care of sufficiently. He should be given immediate proper medical treatment and other general care. His family should be traced along with other group members and on humanitarian grounds, atleast his immediate family should be allowed to stay with him while he recovers.
d) On a priority basis, efforts must be made to immediately trace the affected group’s women and children.
e)  As soon as Ranjit is well enough to accompany the officials, help should be taken from this only survivor to identify the community from which men were killed, so that imposters do not claim the compensation and rehabilitation package being offered by the administration.
f) A thorough enquiry be conducted into any possible criminal history of the main accused in the case. 
g) We were told by the transferred SP, Vaishali, that the sections under which the murderers have been charged include serious rioting, which if proved can lead to fitting punishment for the perpetrators. According to our information, IPC sections 147, 148, 149, 302, 307 and 353 have been invoked to deal with this case.  We demand that the investigation into this issue is carried out in depth, and that the most stringent punishment is given to the culprits.
h) We do not comprehend why there is no punitive collective fine possible in this particular case, regardless of whether the victims were actual thieves or not. We hope that the punitive measures proposed for the future to discourage such incidents will be implemented for this case as well.
i) We have made a note that the confession by Ranjit to ‘planned robbery’ by 11 people has been once again done under pressure from the police. In the Commission’s experience, this is a very common occurrence regarding the nomadic communities. Whenever a burglary or a murder takes place, the police raids the habitations of nomadic (and denotified) communities and  their members are arbitrarily picked up by the police to show immediate ‘results’.  The Commission hopes that the administration, and the state governments, particularly, will take a serious note of this tendency on part of the police.
j) The nomadic communities in modern India live a subhuman existence and fall victims to barbaric medieval practices of civil society. We note with pain that only after such gruesome events have actually taken place that the government thinks in terms of rehabilitation and giving ‘justice’ to the victims. This makes us wonder whether it is important for each nomadic community to lose so many of its members before they will be rehabilitated and noticed as the state’s most vulnerable subjects today.
k) The Commission demands that an immediate, time bound survey is started in all the states of these asset-less nomadic communities who have no territorial rights, and an adequate rehabilitation package to be implemented within a specified time frame is announced for them immediately.

             New Delhi,  21.9.07



One Response to “Bihar lynching: Caste truth”

  1. 1 sarika jadhav

    respected,

    i am working with nomadic communities in maharashtra, incidence of atrocities case in bhihar & MP is schoking for us also, but we only get the first hand information about the incidence but what hppen after NTDNT enquary committee went their, what is the present situation.


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