SOROOR AHMED opines that infamous Bhagalpur riots 1989 remain a blot on our country and the guilty are largely unpunished. There is a competition to take credit for the recent conviction of 14 accused. He discussed who did what and who can claim how
If you want to learn the art of telling lies, contact the Bharatiya Janata Party and their allies. Those who were instrumental in the 1989 holocaust in Bhagalpur and those who did every thing to delay the judicial process are today shamelessly taking the credit for life imprisonment handed down to 14 accused involved in the massacre of 116 Muslims in Logain on October 27, 1989 by a large murderous mob. According to the Riots Commission Report 4,000 Hindus attacked the village and 180, not 116, people were killed. The bodies of the hapless victims were thrown in the nearby pond; later they were dumped into two wells. But when stench from bodies became intolerable the bodies were taken out and surreptitiously buried in paddy fields and cauliflowers were grown upon them.
If the deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, takes the credit for this much-delayed judgement it is understandable as the BJP people have mastered the art of spreading canards. Who can deny that the riots started following a dispute over Ram Shila Procession, the brain child of Lal Krishna Advani during the Ayodhya movement. More than a dozen communal riots took place during those processions in Bihar in which dozens of people lost lives. Bhagalpur riots got publicity because they were the biggest in that series having dimensions of a massacre.
But the surprise aspect is that it was the Janata Dal (United) spokesman, Shivanand Tiwary, who till a few months back used to cling to Lalu Yadav’s apron strings, wasted no time to boast that all this happened because of the Nitish Kumar government. How can they forget that before this judgement 308 accused have already been punished in other riots cases related to Bhagalpur and 90 of them got life imprisonment. Instead of taking credit the government must ponder as to how only 14 out of the mob of thousands got jail terms and the rest went scot-free in the most infamous massacre during the riots. What is more shocking is that out of 14 convicted, one Jay Prakash Mandal gave a slip to the police on June 17 and could not be traced up till now.
The partisan attitude of the media of the state, who after the rioters and administration played the most heinous role in perpetrating the riots in this silk-town, is no less shocking. They concocted totally baseless stories only to instigate the rioters. Today instead of putting the government in the dock for its serious lapses and escape of a criminal they are praising the Nitish government for the court ruling.
No doubt the judicial process was extremely slow and not all the victims got compensation. But when compared to thousands of other riots the relief and compensation work was much better. But for sheer political reasons instead of crediting the former chief minister, Lalu Yadav, for whatever little he has done, there is a campaign to put all the blame on him, as if he was the man who instigated riots, put hurdles in the inquiry and blocked the distribution of compensation.
It needs to be mentioned that initially Justice Ram Nandan Prasad was appointed to inquire into the riots by the then chief minister Dr Jagannath Mishra, now in the Janata Dal (United). His son is in the Nitish cabinet. However, when Lalu Yadav came to power he appointed two more members S Q Rizvi, former IG of Bihar Police and S Patnakar (Retired IAS) as there were complaints against Justice Prasad. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, with the active cooperation of the BJP bigwigs moved court against this decision. They took plea that both these members were from outside the judiciary. The state government then replaced Rizvi with Fahim Ahmad (former deputy chief secretary). To delay the process further the VHP people again moved the Supreme Court. The Apex Court then asked the state government to appoint two judges of Patna high court. It was then that Justice Shamsul Hasan and Justice Ram Chandra Prasad Sinha were appointed.
Justice Prasad, the chairman of the Commission, that is, the man appointed by Jagannath Mishra, and these two judges submitted different reports by February 1995. It is interesting to note that Justice Prasad said that the riot was a fall out of the Tatarpur bombing on the SP on October 24 by some Muslims, while the report submitted by other two judges indicted the then Chief secretary, A U Sarma, the then Zonal IG, G P Dohre, the then SP, K S Dwivedi and many others. The Lalu government accepted this report.
This report was tabled on the floor of the assembly and was the first ever report in the history of the country to be debated in the legislative council. The truth is that in spite of this the Union fertilizer minister, Ram Bilas Paswan, during the campaign of 2005 assembly election demanded the Lalu-Rabri government to table the report. How can Paswan tell such a lie just for the political reasons.
The chief minister Nitish Kumar on his part played his own game. Instead of implementing the unimplemented part of the two-member report he in Feb 2006 appointed Justice N N Singh to probe the matter once again. He promised that it would submit its report within six months, but in that period even the office space was not allotted to Justice Singh.
Now the inquiry has started but those working in the field are accusing the present government of trying to bail out the then SP, K S Dwevidi, who has since then been dumped. It needs to be mentioned that during the 25 days of the President rule in 1999 the then NDA government made Dwevidi the SP of Muzaffarpur, though he was dumped by Lalu during his entire period of 15 years.
True, Lalu should certainly have done much more than what he did. But this does not mean that he was responsible for whatever went wrong. And till now there is nothing the Nitish Kumar government can take credit for. If it takes some real good steps in future only then it can be praised. Till now it is just doing lip service and lip service cannot right the wrongs nor punish the guilty.