June 13, 2015
a report by Nilanjan Dutta and Partho Sarathi Ray
A Calcutta High Court division bench comprising Justices Ashim Kumar Roy and Ishan Chandra Das on 15 May 2015 confirmed the life sentences on Manbhula Mahato, Parameswar @ Pratham Mahato, Anda @ Ananda Mahato, Kalicharan @ Kalia Mahato, Naran @ Nayan Mahato, Rajaram Majhi, and Bhaktu @ Arjun Singh in case No. CRA 26/2005. They are all poor agricultural labourers from P.S. Juridih, district Bokaro, Jharkhand.
The sentence had been originally issued by the additional district judge, 2nd Court, Purulia, on 29-30 November 2004. They were convicted under section 302/149 IPC. They were accused of being MCC activists who raided the house of one Jagadish Tiwari at Bansgarh village, P.S. Jhalda, district Purulia, West Bengal, and killed him on 26 November 2002. Jagdish Tiwari was a local landlord notorious for his repressive actions against the poor peasants and landless labourers of the area. After his death, his wife and son had lodged an FIR accusing all the people in the neighbouring villages of Jharkhand, Kamlapur, Sindhatar, Arasaram, Purnapani and Jogidih for his killing.
After this the West Bengal police arrested the eight people from these villages who already had land disputes with the slain landlord and were fighting legal cases against him. This was an act of vengeance by the West Bengal police and the family of the slain landlord to settle old scores with poor dalit and adivasi villagers. One of the accused, Sakti Mahato, who had also been given a life term by the trial court, was acquitted by the high court on the ground that he had been named by only one prosecution witness who could not identify him during trial. The high court noted that no “formal test identification parade” had been held. The convicted persons have spent more than 12 years in jail already. Now they face a life-time in prison, victims of the repressive machinery of the Indian state.