14 get life term in Bhagalpur riots' case
Bhagalpur, July. 7 (PTI): A trial court today sentenced 14 convicts, including one in absentia, to life imprisonment in the 1989 Bhagalpur communal riots' case for the massacre of 116 Muslims at Logain village. Additional District and Sessions Judge Shambhunath Mishra, who had on June 27 deferred the sentencing as one of the convicts Jaiprakash Mandal continued to abscond, today ordered the 13 convicts, including a former police officer, to undergo rigourous life imprisonment.
"Since the crime, though serious, does not not fall in the rarest of rare category the convicts are sentenced to life imprisonment," the Judge said much to the relief of the convicts and hundreds of their family members, who had thronged the court since morning to know their fate.
The Judge had on June 18 convicted the 14 accused under Sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information to screen the offender) and 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with the intent to destroy house etc.) of IPC.
Those convicted were the then officer in-charge of Jagdishpur police station Ramchandra Singh, chowkidar Thakur Paswan, Kuldip Mandal, Arjun Mandal, Prabhas Mandal, Sukhdev Mandal, Subhash Mandal, Ajablal Mandal, Shivlal Mandal, Naresh Mandal, Jattu Mandal, Ramdev Mandal, Saryu Prasad Singh and Jaiprakash Mandal. Though there were 24 named accused in the case, six died during the pendency of the trial, while four never turned up before the court.
With today's verdict, altogether 322 persons were convicted of involvement in various cases of Bhagalpur communal riots, among them 104 sentenced to life imprisonment. Of the 886 cases registered in connection with the conflagration which claimed 1,981 human lives and left hundreds of others disabled and without jobs or shelter, Logain carnage was one of the most shocking.
Altogether 116 Muslims, including women and children, were butchered, burned and shot in cold blood by the frenzied attackers on October 27, 1989, and dumped into a mass grave on which cauliflowers were planted to avoid detection. The enormity of the crime became known to the outside world when vultures hovering above the Logain landscape gave away to the most closely guarded secret of the village -- the mass grave -- 44 days after the slaughter.
The vegetable field was dug up and, one after another, 11 bodies were exhumed for doctors to perform autopsy and then reinterred. Touching scenes were witnessed on the court premises today when the handcuffed convicts were brought from jail.
Their family members, including women and children, sobbed uncontrollably at seeing their dear ones being taken from the lock-up to the courtroom to hear the judgement. They stopped for a brief while and exchanged a few words before being nudged by the policemen to keep on moving. Ramchandra Singh, the then officer in-charge of Jagdishpur police station, who was among those sentenced to life term in jail, while pleading innocence said he would move a higher court against the verdict. Abhay Kant Jha, the counsel for other convicts, too said the verdict would be challenged in the high court.