Patna: For Union Minister Giriraj Singh, slain Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya, an accused in several lower caste massacre cases in Bihar, is a “martyr”, as he not only paid homage to him on Monday, but also described Mukhiya’s death anniversary as ‘martyr day’.
Singh, who is Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) senior firebrand leader and a vocal champion of Hindutva politics , in a tweet in Hindi wrote: “Brahmeshwar Mukhiya Jee ke Shaheed Diwas par unhe koti koti naman” (A thousand salutes to Bhahmeshwar Mukhiya on Matryrs Day).
Ranvir Sena is an upper caste militia in Bihar, mainly consisting of landlords and their henchmen.
There was strong reaction against the senior minister’s tweet from the Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD,Congress and Left parties, which dared the ruling BJP to explain to the people whether the party considered Mukhiya as a martyr, as declared by Singh.
Brahameshwar Singh was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on June 1, 2012, in Ara, the district headquarters of Bhojpur, about 60 km from here. He was arrested in 2002 from Patna for the murder of 21 dalits in a village in Bhojpur in 1996. He spent nine years in jail, and was released on bail in 2011.
His killing had triggered violent protests by his supporters and sympathisers who constituted the upper caste militia in Ara and Patna.
Brahameshwar Singh formed Ranvir Sena in 1994 in Belaur village of Udwantnagar block in Bhojpur. Soon, it became notorious for its violent activities and was accused of many caste killings, mostly of the poorest of the poor dalits and OBCs (Other Backward Classes) in the 1980s and 1990s.
This is not the first time that Giriraj Singh, a Lok Sabha MP from Begusarai,who belongs to the landed upper caste bhumihar caste that has a strong presence in state politics, has publicly praised Mukhiya.
As BJP MLA and Bihar Minister in 2011, Singh had described Mukhiya as a Gandhian. Later, he again declared Mukhiya as a Gandhian 'vicharak' (thinker), raising many eyebrows in the Bihar.
According to political watchers here, there are several supporters and sympathisers of Mukhiya in BJP. Nearly two decades ago, BJP leaders were also accused of nexus with Ranvir Sena in the state.
The landed upper caste Ranvir Sena was allegedly involved in the killing of nearly 300 people, mostly dalits, and Mukhiya was considered the brain behind it.
Reacting strongly to Singh’s tweet, RJD MLA and party spokesperson Bhai Virender said it was a tradition of BJP leaders to term those accused of massacres as ‘Mahatma’.
“Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, an ally of BJP, should respond to Giriraj Singh’s tweet”,he said.
Congress MLC Premchand Mishra said when the entire country was struggling to fight the coronavirus pandemic, there were leaders busy giving the status of martyr to one accused of killing the poorest, adding that ”this exposes the BJP’s leader’s mindset”.
Communist party of India (Marxist) leader Manoj Kumar Chandrawanahi said Giriraj Singh had revealed his “real mindset” by according the tag of ‘martyr’ to Mukhiya, who is allegedly involved in several massacres of poor people.
CPI(ML)leader Dhirendhar Jha said Giriraj Singh’s stand on Mukhiya as a martyr was shameful. “How can a man responsible for killing poor dalits be promoted as a martyr by a senior BJP leader”?, he added.
Officially, however, BJP leaders in Bihar tried to downplay the issue saying it was Singh’s “personal view”.
Giriraj Singh once even said that those opposing Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no place in India.
Ranvir Sena’s victims were usually landless labourers and farmers. The Sena used to openly say that it was committed to protecting the rights of landed farmers, and was avenging the murders of members of the upper caste, often land-owners, some of whom were killed by Naxalites during insurgency in Bihar.
The Sena's deadliest strike was in the Lakshmanpur Bathe area in 1997, in which 58 dalits were killed. In 1999, the it massacred two dozen dalit men, women and children in Shankarbigha village of Jehanabad district.
With the Bihar Assembly elections hardly four to five months away, the opposition RJD is set to cash in on Giriraj Singh's latest attempt to portray Mukhiya as ‘martyr’ to consolidate its social support base among the poor sections of the society.