UPSC Notes on Senari Massacre, 1999

The Indian state of Bihar witnessed numerous caste massacres as the war of attrition rose between the now-defunct Maoist Communist Center or MCC and the upper-caste private army of landlords in the state. More than 400 people, including administrative workers, died in the massacre that took place between 1990 and 2005. 

One of these sonorous massacres is the Senari Massacre of 1999. Situated in the Jehanabad district of Bihar, 34 upper caste men of the Senari village were forced out of their homes by cadres of the Maoist Communist Center (MCC). The 34 men were slaughtered on 18th March 1999 near the village temple. 

The Senari massacre is considered to be a sequel of caste conflict between the MCC and upper caste people residing in the village. The MCC cadres were primely revolting against the militia functioning as a landlord group named ‘Ranvir Sena’. The Ranvir Sena was allegedly involved in the massacre of Laxmanpur-Bathe in Jehanabad in 1997. In 2009, Bihar saw another caste massacre in the Khagaria district of Bihar, where 16 OBS people were killed. 

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Context of the Senari Massacre for UPSC

Senari village was undergoing frequent caste killing in the 1990s. The period was termed the ‘dark ages of the state’. The Senari massacre of 1999 remains one of the massacres with the largest number of upper-caste victims. The chief or Mukhiya of Ranvir Sena, Brahmeshwar Singh, was an upper-caste farmer from the Bhojpur district of Bihar. He played a pivotal role in fuelling the clash between the upper-caste landowners and landless Dalits of the state. Under his leadership, the Sena slaughtered more than 1000 people. The members of the militia believed the killings to be retaliation to the murders by Maoists. The Sena insisted the lower castes supported the ‘Red terror’ to justify their actions. In 2012, Brahmeshwar Singh was shot dead near his home in Arrah, Bihar.

Please note that the caste system in India is one of the important features of Indian society. The topic, Senari Massacre, should be read in that light.

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Important events of Senari Massacre 1999

Challenging the lower court’s verdict

The fourteen MCC cadres involved in the Senari Massacre were arrested. Eleven of the accused were sentenced to death in Jehanabad Court on 5th November 2015. Three were given a life imprisonment sentence. Three of the accused challenged the court’s verdict in the Patna High court. Later, on 21st May 2021, Patna High Court acquitted the 14 accused. A Division Bench was created. The honourable Justices reversed the verdict passed by the lower court due to the lack of corroborative evidence. 

State’s appeal to the Supreme Court

The government of Bihar is presently devising a strong case to present before the SC. The Prosecution presented that there are 23 witnesses of the slaughtering of the Senari massacre. The Prosecution even said that 13 witnesses had lost their family members in the massacre. A counsel for the Bihar Government said that none of the 14 accused disputed the occurrence date, time, and manner. According to the counsel, the high court findings conflicted with the evidence recorded. A prolonged delay in judgement is evident in the case of the Senari massacre. 

As a point in the discussion, the Left-Wing Extremism in Bihar was initiated with the oppression of landless Dalits by groups of upper-caste landlords. A resemblance may be found in the Naxal movement in Andhra Pradesh in December 1968 in the Srikakulam tribal-dominated region. Almost nine different states of India have witnessed the effects of Left-Wing Extremism, including West Bengal, Orissa, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. Some ultra-Leftists active in the state of Bihar are CPI(ML) Liberation, CPI(ML) People’s War, Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti, etc. 

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Frequently Asked Questions about Senari Massacre

When did the Senari massacre happen?

The Senari Massacre happened on 18th March 1999 when 34 upper-caste men of Senari Village in Jehanabad district of Bihar were forced out of their home and slaughtered near the village temple by cadres of the Maoist Communist Center (MCC).

What was the role of Ranvir Sena in the war of attrition?

Ranvir Sena was formed against the killings of upper-caste landlords and was headed by Brahmeshwar Singh. Ranvir Sena was responsible for multiple murders of landless Dalits. The Sena emphasized the Dalits and lower castes were the prime supporters of the Left-Wing Extremists. Thus, it was justified to murder them.

What is the recent scenario of the Senari Massacre case?

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the State government of Bihar’s appeal against the acquittal of 14 accused individuals of the Senari massacre of 1999. The Prosecution presented the SC with 23 eyewitnesses of the slaughtering, among which 13 witnesses lost their family members in the massacre.

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