The forgotten riots of Bhagalpur - Al Jazeera English

The forgotten riots of Bhagalpur

Twenty five years on, survivors of riots in India's Bihar state still await justice as many of culprits roam free.

Javed Iqbal |

In October 1989, Parbatti, a locality in Bhagalpur town in the eastern state of Bihar, saw a well full of bodies cut into pieces which local reporters were quick to announce were the bodies of Hindu students murdered by Muslim mobs. But they were eventually identified as the family members of Mohammed Javed. All 12 of them.

The 1995 Riots Inquiry Commission Report by Justices Ram Chandra Prasad Sinha and S Shamsul Hasan blamed the administration, the press and the police for disseminating false information in an already communalised situation.

What happened on October 24, 1989 could be described as a riot, but what followed over the next month was nothing but an organised massacre of one group.

The violence was ignited after Hindu religious procession came under bomb attack.

Over the next few weeks, organised mobs of thousands would burn over 250 villages down, and mass killings would take place across the district. Official figures put the death toll at around 1,000 (with 90 percent Muslim), but independent estimates say the death toll was higher.

Two villages, Logain with around 118 dead and Chanderi with around 70 dead, received decent press coverage over the years, and with strong witnesses they would see prosecutions over a decade and more later. But the killings at Bhatoriya (85 dead), Rasalpur (30 dead), Padghari (27 dead), Chajghora (25 dead), and Silampur-Amanpur (77 dead), saw prosecutions and then bails, settled cases with killers roaming free, till date.

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