I ACCOMPANIED Bihar state secretary, Avdhesh Kumar, to Madhubani and Muzaffarpur districts on July 26-27. What we witnessed was conclusive evidence of the fact that, after his treacherous deal with the BJP, Nitish Kumar has given up all attempts at good governance and Bihar today is no different from BJP-states as far as inhuman atrocities against women, minor girls and dalits are concerned.
In Madhubani, a huge rally of more than 2000 people, mostly dalits, was organised by the Party in solidarity with more than 700 Musahars who are sitting on dharna along with CPI(M) activists in front of the Khatauna block office since July 1 when their homes in Mogala village were demolished by the administration. 105 homes had been built in 1985-86 after the government distributed land that had been acquired since it was in excess of the ceiling law. The original landlord had seen his claims to the land rejected by an alert administration but, recently, he had been successful in getting the administration and the court to rule in his favour and, without giving any notice to the residents, the colony was demolished with the use of JCBs. CPI(M) activists and leaders rushed to the spot and started the dharna. The administration had to open up a school for the homeless and has been providing rations. It was forced to assure them that they would be given another piece of land and also compensation to build homes again.
CPI(M) leaders assured the homeless Musahars that they would stand by them till they win the battle for their homes. After the meeting, the entire crowd marched in a procession to the demolished colony. Those who had lived there for so many years, rushed to look at their old homes and try and salvage some of their belongings. They started collecting tin sheets and bricks along with windows and doors, determined to rebuild their old homes. A young boy climbed onto a broken home and flew the red flag from the roof!
We spoke to the district magistrate who assured us that the former landowner would not be allowed to take possession of the land and that the government would give land and compensation to the homeless families.
The dharna is continuing as are visits by the evicted to their homes. A big victory for the poorest of the poor seems likely and the red flag flying over the colony is acting as a beacon of hope for the area.
On the 27th, we visited Muzaffarpur just as the news came of the government having referred the case of the rape of at least 34 (out of 40) minor female inmates of the Rescue Home to the CBI. The details of the case are horrifying. The home is run by an NGO with political connections. The local BJP MLA is involved in the running of the home which is given money by the state government. The husband of the JD(U) minister for social welfare is also being accused of having been a frequent visitor to the home. In March of this year, the home was visited by a research team from the TISS, Mumbai. In the course of their conversations with the inmates, they were told, in confidence, that the young girls were being tortured and sexually abused by those running the home and others. The girls in question are between 10 and 14 years of age. Many of them are mentally challenged. Subsequently, these accusations were made public and the home has been closed, 10 of the 11 accused have been arrested. But, the big fish, are all at large. While the CBI enquiry has been welcomed, unless it is accompanied by monitoring by the High Court, it may not be effective. In the meantime, more horrible details have been revealed. Even after the FIR was filed in the case, the NGO continued to receive government grants. And now, all the inmates of another home run by the same NGO are ‘missing’. There are also at least 14 other such homes run by NGOs. It is impossible to even imagine the full extent of this story of human tragedy and the barbarity of the powerful.
Muzaffarpur has also been in the news for a terrible incident of brutality that occurred on July 22. A 10 year old girl, Nasreen, was raped and strangled to death and her 8 year old brother, Azhar, was blinded and also strangled to death. Those accused of the crime, Lalla Thakur and his son, Vikas Thakur are local landlords and mafia. Their henchmen, Farid and his son are also accused.
Before we visited Nasreen’s family, we were taken to Saraiyyan block where 50 homes belonging to Musahars were demolished on July 17. These home sites had been allotted to the Musahars in 1981 and none other than Lalla Thakur’s father Devendra Thakur had claimed the land saying that he was a tenant of the original landlord. He was able to get a Court order in his favour as long ago as 2008 but made no attempt to gain possession of the land. It was only now when, with the BJP not only in government but also growing more assertive by the day, that he approached the administration. Obviously, money power played an important role because the police from five police stations accompanied the demolition squad. The Thakur family’s goondas also went with them and set fire to many of the homes. When the poor women tried to block the JCBs, they were kicked and beaten by the police. When we visited them they showed us their bruises. They have refused to leave the place, however. The SUCI and CPI(M) are supporting them. It was from them that we learned about the involvement of their tormentors in the rape and murder of the two children just a few days after the demolition which must, of course, have greatly added to the hubris of the perpetrators.
Nasreen and Azhar’s family belongs to an extremely poor Muslim community called Fakir. Their grieving mother, Baby Khatoon, told us that the family is facing threats from the Thakur father and son. She was emphatic that they wanted justice and no other kind of help.
We spoke to the district magistrate and told him about the threats that the family is receiving and he assured us that he himself would intervene in the matter. By late evening, Farid had been arrested but the others are still at large.
In response to increasing attacks on the most vulnerable communities, the Left Parties have given a call for a Bihar Bandh on August 2. Others like RJD have given their support. The Nitish Kumar government will have to change course or face the wrath of the people.