Hundreds of people in Bihar took to the streets Tuesday against a Patna High Court verdict acquitting 23 men convicted for the 1996 massacre of 21 people, mostly women and children, by the upper-caste Ranvir Sena in Bhojpur district.
The Patna High Court had Monday acquitted the three sentenced to death and 20 given life sentence. They had been convicted by the Ara sessions court and sentenced in May 2010.
The Bathani Tola village, in Sahar block of Bhojpur district, was targeted by armed members of the Ranvir Sena who butchered 21 people, mostly Dalits and poor Muslims on July 11, 1996.
On Tuesday, the day after the court acquitted them and also directed that all of them be released, hundreds of angry people, mostly family members of the massacre victims, protested at Ara, the district headquarters of Bhojpur, about 60 km from Patna, and in several other places like Gaya, Aurangabad and Arwal.
“The slogan shouting protesters blocked Ara-Patna road and threatened to launch a campaign to seek justice for victims of the massacre following the court judgement,” a police official in Ara said.
The protesters were led by the workers and leaders of the Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML), which termed the judgement sad, shocking and shameful.
“The party workers held demonstrations across the state against the judgement and demanded justice for the victims,” CPI-ML state secretary Kunal said.
The protests were held in all the district headquarters, Kunal added. Hundreds of people protested the high court judgment in these cities, he said.
Kunal said the ruling was a cruel joke for the poor people who had been waiting for justice for the last 16 years.
Citing lack of evidence, the high court had Monday reversed the order of the lower court on grounds of lack of evidence in the police chargesheet.
The state government will file an appeal against the Patna High Court judgement. “The government will approach against it in the apex court” Additional Director General of Police (headquarters) Ravindra Kumar said.