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Published in the 1-15 June 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Bhagalpur victims get justice after 15 years

Patna : At long last victims of Bhagalpur riots got justice after waiting for 15 years when Bhagalpur district sessions court judge, Vijay Kumar Sinha, sentenced four persons, Ram Chandra Raman, Bholu Singh, Aruna Singh and Sadanand Singh to life imprisonment. All these four had chopped off the head of one Muhammad Shaukat on 28 October 1989 during the Bhagalpur riots while he was cutting grass. There were three other persons along with Shaukat when a violent and agitated mob of approximately 1500 persons caught him. These four persons first of all chopped off his head and thereafter cut down his torso into several pieces.The three collegues of Shaukat managed to escape.

Malika Begum with her children

Malika Begum with her children

According to official statistics, about 1100 persons were killed during these riots which continued unabated for almost a month but according unofficial estimates, more than 3000 Muslims were killed and more than 50,000 were rendered homeless when their houses were burnt or destroyed.

Hindus blame Muslims for stoning Durga Pooja procession which led to the eruption of riots. However, according to Arshad Ajmal, who was saved by Jamaat Islami's relief committee, he vividly remembers even now that dreadful night when in front of his own eyes more than 150 persons of his community were butchered like animals and thrown into a tank. One, Malika Begum, both of whose feet were chopped off regained life after being in coma for several months.

According to Ajmal, the rioters were only looking for an opportunity for massacring members of the minority community. For this purpose they had been spreading various kinds of rumours. He, however, welcomed the court’s verdict but said that law enforcing authorities had failed to target those who were really responsible for starting and fanning the riots. Two years ago the court had sentenced some people belonging to the minority community also.
Of the above-mentioned four, Ram Chandra Raman and Bholu Singh will be jailed for additional three years because they had killed Shaukat. The other two were accused of only cutting the victim’s body into pieces. After Shaukat's murder, pieces of his dead body were recovered with the help of local headman. Shaukat’s head, however was not traceable. (Azad Hind (Urdu daily), Kolkata, 13 May 2004)

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