Barmeshwar Singh, leader of Bihar’s feared Ranbir Sena, shot dead
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Barmeshwar Singh, leader of the private upper caste army Ranbir Sena which ran a ruthless campaign of terror against alleged Maoist supporters for nearly two decades in Bihar, was shot dead at dawn today.
Unknown killers in a car shot the 63-year-old Bhumihar leader four times in the chest as he emerged from home for a morning walk in Khatira in the Nawada police station area of the district town 70-odd km from Patna.
Singh, known as Mukhiyaji to his supporters, was on trial in six cases, and had been on bail for a year. He had of late begun to mobilise upper caste farmers in Ara, and had been critical of what he said were Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's "anti-farmer" policies.
News of Mukhiya's death triggered a quick and violent reaction from his supporters who torched furniture at Ara circuit house, damaged a part of the block development office, and set two milk tankers on fire. Roadblocks were set up in Bihta, Paliganj, Jehanabad and some other areas dominated by Bhumihars. Hundreds of policemen were deployed in Ara, and a red alert was sounded across central Bihar.
Mukhiya founded the now defunct Ranbir Sena to fight against the Maoist Communist Centre, which is now CPI (Maoist), and protect the interests of upper caste landlords. In the course of a bloody battle of dominance and attrition, the Ranbir Sena and MCC carried out over 30 caste massacres until early 2000.
Hours after the 4 am murder, police and intelligence agencies were working on three preliminary theories of the crime.
It was suspected that the CPI (ML) had hit Mukhiya in retaliation after Patna High Court in April acquitted all the accused in the July 1996 Bathanitola massacre in which 22 Dalits and Muslims were killed. A second theory was of political rivalry, with suspicion that Singh — who fought the last Lok Sabha election and was likely to contest again — was targeted by local leaders. There was also talk of a group from within his own caste eliminating him because of his renewed acceptance among upper caste farmers.
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