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Bhagalpur culprits sentenced

The worst memories of the October 1988 Bhagalpur riots are still haunting the residents of the town where communalists and mischief-mongers murdered countless Muslims en masse under an organized plot. More than a thousand people were killed in this savage massacre which continued for several days and in which the majority of victims were Muslims. RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other political organizations of the same hue were accused of complicity in these riots.

The worst and most terrible incidents had taken place in Chanderi village where anti-Muslim elements had murdered twenty persons, buried their dead bodies in a field and grew cauliflower crops there. Some people in this village had even jumped into a water-tank to escape the attackers and lost their lives in the process. There was a young girl, Malika, also in this tank of Chanderi village. She was rescued by the army and one of her legs was cut off. A Kashmiri Muslim Army jawan had dragged her out of the tank and later married her (subsequently, however, Malika’s husband deserted her after which she again started leading her life of misery).

After these despicable incidents Bihar government set up an enquiry commission to look into these riots. The enquiry continued for years and finally its reports were published. One report was prepared by the chairman of the commission and the other report by two other members of the commission. In the second report, persons who had indulged in mass murder of Muslims were identified. When both these reports were presented before the Bihar Assembly, the then Chief Minister Laloo Yadav declared that the guilty will be punished soon, but till date no action was taken against them.

Now, an addl. district & sessions judge, delivering verdict, sentenced 14 accused to life imprisonment and exonerated 22 persons on account of insufficient proof and want of witnesses. They were accused of murdering 140 persons of Chanderi village in the riots starting on 17 October 1988 and, after burying their dead bodies in a field, had grown cauliflower crop on their graves.

This judgment was passed against the perpetrators of the crime almost after thirteen years but only 14 persons were sentenced to life imprisonment and the rest were freed; though, as a matter of fact, all of them should have been hanged long ago for their crimes.

Though some people have been sentenced to life imprisonment after thirteen years, there is no guarantee that these people will at all be punished. They will challenge this verdict in the high court where legal battle will go on for years. Statements and counter-statements will go on. Witnesses and documents submitted in lower court will again be submitted in the high court. Arguments and counter-arguments of lawyers will continue, hearings will be fixed and postponed. The case may linger on for another thirteen years and the criminals will go home free as happens in most of such cases.

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