To: The President of the Republic of India
The President of the Republic of India
We, the undersigned, request you to commute the death sentence given to five Dalit landless peasants belonging to Bihar to life imprisonment on humanitarian grounds.
In a 2:1 judgement the Supreme Court confirmed death sentence awarded by the Sessions Court in Gaya to four Dalit landless peasants. The four accused in the Bara incident: Veer Kuer Paswan (60); Krishna Mochi (52); Dharu Singh (40); Nanhe Lal Mochi (53) and Shobhit Chamar of Durgawati village in Bhabhua district of Bihar in another case.
These peasants were given death sentences in a context of mass responses to the massacres by Swarna Liberation Front and Sunlight Sena (names under which criminal landlord armies operated and were predecessors to the Ranabir Sena) such as in Sawan Bigha (Jehanabad), Rampurchai (Jehanabad), Mein Barsimha (Gaya) etc We earnestly believe that it is necessary to understand the tensions in Bihar in the context of the iniquitous socio-economic and political situation of Bihar/Jharkhand.
Lack of land reforms, violation of statutory minimum wages, attacks on women and children of the poor by the upper caste landlord armies and the sheer fear psychosis created among them by the nexus between the rural rich and the police have already resulted in anarchy prevailing in Bihar/Jharkhand. It is significant that not one of the accused belonging to the landlord armies has been prosecuted under TADA (or POTA), though they carried on more than 120 attacks and killed more than 700 landless dalits and peasants in the last 20 years from 1980 to till date.
Whereas it is routine to charge landless Dalits under draconian laws where rights of accused are jettisoned. Inaction of the police and apathy of the state governments to proceed against landlord armies and, in rare case of trial, the fact that persons responsible for massacring Dalit landless peasants are handed light sentences contribute much to the anger among the Dalit landless peasants and create conditions where they feel they have no option but to take matter into their hands.
Although the 2:1 judgement by a three member bench itself questions the legitimacy of upholding the award of death sentences to the accused, there are other lacunae as well. If dissenting Judge regarded the evidence to be “fabricated” is it fair to award death penalty to the accused? It is equally troubling that death sentences are awarded to the poor and vulnerable who when failed by the governments took law into their hands. Whereas the upper caste landlords who massacre the Dalit and other landless poor people escape punishments. It is this that brings out the infirmities in the regime of capital punishment that metes out death to the poor and vulnerable in the name of deterrence when the very existence of poor is jeopardised by social inequalities and political indifference.
In the above context, we the undersigned once again appeal to your excellency for commuting the death penalty imposed on the above mentioned Dalit peasants.