15 killed in Bihar caste violence

Our Correspondent in Patna

Fifteen persons were killed in two separate incidents of caste violence in Nawada district of central Bihar last night.

The killings come eight days after the massacre of six Yadavs by Bhumihars in Rajobigha village in the same district.

In the first incident in Kashichak village, 12 people were killed and five injured in a late night attack. In another incident, three Yadavs were abducted and their bodies were abandoned in a nearby village.

Though it is not clear who is responsible for the massacres, initial reports suggest that it may be a retaliatory act. Top administrative and police officials have reached the village and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav is expected to visit the village later.

Incidentally, the killings took place less than a week after a major administrative and police shake up in the state. In fact, both the district magistrate and superintendent of police of Nawada were transferred after the June 3 killing. In the last fortnight about 30 persons, mostly Yadavs and Bhumihars, have been killed in the district.

Nawada is notorious for caste violence between Bhumihars and Yadavs. The district has a very high concentration of Bhumihars, Dalits and Yadavs. As elsewhere in the state, in the early 1990s the Bhumihars started losing their grip in rural pockets. Gradually the Yadavs started challenging them, thus exacerbating the already existing social tension. The worst affected area is the Warisaliganj assembly segment of Nawada, where most of the killings have taken place.

The cause of the tension is a sugar mill in Warisaliganj, which has been closed for several years rendering many people unemployed. The area was once a left bastion with the Communist Party of India winning the Nawada parliamentary seat till 1991. However, the RJD now holds the seat.

But Bhumihars managed to retain their hold in Warisaliganj, when they sent the leader of Congress legislative party, Ramashray Prasad Singh, to the state assembly in the 1995 election. But the Congress' flirtation with the RJD irked them. In the February assembly election they elected independent candidate Aruna Devi, wife of notorious outlaw Akhliesh Singh. Another independent, Aditya Singh, also a Bhumihar, won from the Narhat segment of Nawada.

The Rajobigha killings may have been purely political. The Yadavs of that village voted against Aruna Devi, thus they were punished. If last night killings are a retaliatory act, it means a new headache for the state government. Political observers feel that the caste conflict will not be easy to contain. Nawada has emerged as another tinderbox in violence-prone central Bihar.

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