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Bathani Tola Massacre: Justice Delayed or Denied Citing Lack of Evidence?

Jitendra

PATNA – As the news of acquittal of 23 accused in Bathani Tola massacre decanted in the village, the entire Bethani Tola has been engulfed in waves of grief, while family members of the victims are contemplating to approach the Supreme Court in pursuit of justice.

Earlier, on Monday, in a sensational judicial development, the high court of Patna had reversed the judgment of lower court pronounced two years back over Bathani Tola massacre of Dalits and poor Muslims.

Pronouncing the judgment a division bench consisting Justice Navniti Prasad Singh and Justice Ashwini Kumar Singh had acquitted all the 23 convicted by the Ara Civil Court in May, 2010, citing ‘lack of evidences’ and ‘ambiguity in statements’ of eyewitnesses.

“I have lost six family members including ten-month old granddaughter. I would approach Supreme Court in pursuit of justice. I have faith in judiciary.’ says Naimuddin, now 70-years old.

“I got shocked when I heard this news.” says Lalchan Choudhary, father of the eyewitness Radhakishun Choudhary.

The Bathani Tola village, in Sahar block of Bhojpur district, was attacked by armed members of the Ranvir Sena and had  butchered 21 people, mostly Dalits and poor Muslims in the year 1996.

Stated facts were rejected:

Mr. Ashwini Kumar Sinha, the prosecution counsel, also an Asst. Public Prosecutor (APP), said, ‘The court has not only ‘ignored’ but also ‘rejected’ the stated facts which was once termed as strong basis for the conviction by the lower court. The Court has taken strong exception over the ‘frivolous’ delay in an FIR registration, lapses in police investigations and minor contradictions in the statements of 13 eyewitnesses.”

“The court has gone through the technicality of the case rather than behavioral approach to allow the justice to prevail. The court took strong notice of delay in registration of an FIR and about the investigation that started before the registration of the FIR.” he added.

Elaborating the incident, Mr. Sinha said, ‘The incident took place around 2 pm on 11 July, 1996. Rest of the villagers fled away in the haste to save their lives. A team of police led by the Sub-Inspector, Umesh Kumar Singh, of Sahar Police Station reached the massacred spot in the evening of that day. There were no villagers at the spot as all had fled. Subsequently police had informed the senior officers about the massacre. It took time. After regaining sense of security by the presence of large number police in the village Bathani Tola, the fled villagers returned back to their village early in the morning and registered an FIR accusing 62 people. It would be an irony if the sub-inspector waits for victim’s family members to register an FIR first and then starts investigation.’

On asking, is it the violation of the law to initiate an investigation before registration of an FIR, he said, “ Yes, But, such a kind of massacre in which 21 people including 3-month old child were butchered in the broad day light should not be observed on technical grounds. After all, it was genocide.”

About the serious notice of HC over minor contradictions in the statements of witnesses, Mr. Sinha said, ‘The eyewitnesses were rustic. They were not professional and unaware about the nitty-gritty of the stated law. There would be possibility of minor differences’

Govt. undecided  on approaching Supreme Court:

“It would be better to consult Advocate General” he said, on asking, would the govt. appeal to Supreme Court in this regard.

According to Advocate General, Ram Balak Mahto, that he has not yet gone through the fifty-seven pages of judgment copy. After-all, to approach supreme court or not, all depends upon the state govt.

Defense counsels Krishna Prasad, Akhilesh PP Singh and Rana Pratap Singh were not ready to share their views on this judgment.

Previous judgment:

Mr. Anand Vatsayan, who argued for the victim’s family in Ara Civil Court told Newzfirst.com that he was stunned by the judgment, and he would be able to comment only after going through the judgment copy.

Anad Vatsayan, also an informant lawyer, said, “The first class district and session Judge, Ajay Kumar Srivastva had pronounced the rigorous punishment of the 23 accused out of total 62. Three culprits were sent for gallows and rest of the 20 sentenced for life imprisonment.”

There were 13 people witnesses including one sub-inspector and three doctors. The Radhakisun Chaudhary,(35), Radhika Devi, 25, Naimmuddin, 55, were few witnesses for the gory incident of 11 July, 1996.

CPI(ML) lashes out at NDA govt.:

Reacting sharply over judgment, Kunal, state secretary of CPI(ML) accused NDA govt. for the acquittal of the all the accused in massacre. ‘The judgment is the kind of cruel joke to the poor people in the Nitish ‘Raj Sushashan’. On one hand, the woman accused in BJP MLA Raj Kishore Keshari’s murder is sentenced to  life imprisonment under speedy trial, 14 Dalit accused have been awarded death sentence on Amausi massacre, while on the other hand, the feudal-communal powers are being allowed to go scot free’ said, Mr. Kunal.

Mr. Kunal also said, “The first thing NDA did after coming to power in 2005 is, they scrapped the Amir Das Commission constituted by previous govt. to probe the politicians’ relations with private militia like Ranveer Sena, as the commission was supposed to submit its report in which many senior BJP and JD-U leaders were named.” (Courtesy: Newzfirst)

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