The Additional District and Sessions judge V P Mishra on Wednesday awarded death sentence to 16 men in the infamous Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre case in which 58 Dalits were killed by upper caste landlords near Jehanabad, Bihar in 1997.
The court also sentenced eight others to life imprisonment, while set free 17 other accused.Bathe, situated on the banks of Sone river and about 80 kilometres from here, had witnessed one of the worst massacres in the history of Bihar. Among those killed mercilessly on 1 December 1997 included 19 men, 29 women and 10 children.
The youngest victim was one-year-old. Four Dalit families were completely wiped out by the suspected activists of Ranveer Sena, an outlawed group nurtured by militant upper caste – Bhumihars.
The then President K R Narayanan had expressed his shock and dismay over the mass murder of 58 Dalits in Central Bihar. In his strong-worded reaction, he had termed the massacre as one of the most shameful incidents in independent India.
The argument in Laxmanpur-Bathe case began on October 12, 2009 and concluded on March 31, 2010. Altogether 91 prosecution witnesses were examined while the defense produced nine witnesses in their favour. Charges were framed against 44 accused after their statements were recorded under Section 313 of the CrPC. However, apparently in a miscarriage of justice, Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh, one of the key accused, escaped punishment as he was declared an ‘absconder’.