At Patna, the CPI(ML) staged a protest march from the Gandhi Maidan to the Buddha Smriti Park on Thursday in protest against the acquittal of all the 26 people accused of massacring 58 dalits in Laxmanpur-Baathe village in 1997.

“An SIT should be set up by the Supreme Court to investigate the matter if justice has to be done to the carnage victims,” said CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya who led the march, christened ‘Aakrosh march’, in the state capital. Bhattacharya said President Pranab Mukherjee ought to meet the massacre victims during his visit to Bihar later this month. “We would move the apex court against the Patna high court verdict,” Bhattacharya said.

Terming the chief minister Nitish Kumar’s claims that his government was for ‘development with justice’ as a farce, Bhattacharya said Kumar would have to answer about his tall promises to deliver justice to the victims of massacres at Baathe and other places. Several members of the civil society, including N K Choudhary, Bharti S Kumar, Santosh Kumar and P N P Lal, also participated in the protest march. As the protestors began the march demanding the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the carnage, traffic was disrupted at several places in the city. Protests were also held in district HQ towns. Protesters also disrupted traffic on the Patna-Aurangabad NH 98 and the Gaya-Patna road at Jehanabad on Thursday.

In Delhi, the CPI(ML) held a protest demonstration against the acquittal. The protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar, raising slogans against the ‘massacre of justice’ and the Nitish Kumar Government for its betrayal of the promise of justice for victims of the dalit massacres. Protesters burnt the effigy of Nitish Kumar and a copy of the Bihar HC verdict too.

Addressing the protest demonstration, CPI(ML) State Secretary Sanjay Sharma asked, “On December 1, 1997, a feudal landlords’ private army the Ranveer Sena massacred 58 Dalits, including 27 women and 10 children, in Laxmanpur Bathe in Arwal, Bihar. Does the HC want us to believe that ‘noone killed these 58 people’? Does the HC hold that the dalit eyewitnesses can’t be believed? Or do the lives of dalits have no judicial value?”

AISA’s National President Sandeep Singh said that in repeated cases, the Bihar HC had overturned lower court convictions in the Bathani Tola, Nagari and Bathe massacre cases. In the Bathani case, the HC declared any true witnesses of the massacre could only be dead. But in the Bathe case, the court held that the eyewitnesses were genuine, yet chose to disbelieve their identification of the killers on the technicality that the actual names were added to the FIR a few days after the massacre. The HC, like in the Bathani case, has again held in the Bathe case that the IO and the prosecution have been biased and have weakened the case. But this bias can only be corrected by placing faith in the eyewitnesses who testified at risk to their lives. The HC has insulted the survivors by letting loose the killers – once again putting the eyewitnesses at risk. Human rights activist Mahtab Alam deplored the Patna High Court verdict and said that struggle for justice must go on. Aslam Khan, Vice President, Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) said that Dalit landless poor who assserted themselves politically by supporting the CPI(ML) were massacred by Ranveer Sena in Laloo’s Bihar, and now justice is being repeatedly massacred in Nitish’s Bihar, exposing the cruel truth behind his claims of ‘justice for mahadalits.’

AISA Delhi President Sunny Kumar said that the first thing that Nitish Kumar did on assuming power was to abandon the Amir Das Commission set up to probe the political links with the Ranveer Sena, because it was well known that BJP and JDU leaders formed the bulk of political support for the Sena, while some RJD and Congress leaders too were known to support the Sena.

JNUSU General Secretary Sandip Saurabh reminded that when Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar was killed recently, the Ranveers unleashed violence on dalit hostel students in Ara – even as Nitish’s police took a leaf from Modi’s book and let them ‘vent their rage’. Santosh Roy, CPI(ML) State Committee member, said that Rahul Gandhi speaks of Dalits moving ahead powered by ‘Jupiter’s velocity’ – but he’s silent on the Bathe verdict. Meanwhile Congress, earlier partner of Laloo who presided over the massacres, now cosies up to Nitish Kumar, who presides over the massacre of justice! And on Independence Day this year, the Baddi dalit atrocity took place in Bihar, reminding everyone that Bathani and Bathe are not horrors of the past, but terrors of today in Nitish-ruled Bihar.

Many concerned citizens and AISA activists also demonstrated at Bihar Bhavan on the same day.