PATNA: In what is being seen as a potential revival of bloodshed over caste-driven animosities in Bihar, a top former commander of the state's banned upper-caste militia Ranvir Sena was gunned down along with two of his bodyguards, police said on Wednesday.
Unidentified gunmen fired at a Scorpio car in which Dhanji Singh was travelling with at least four other people, including his two bodyguards, near Durgapur village in Rohtas district on Wednesday night. The bullet-riddled bodies of Singh and his two bodyguards - Mantu Singh and Shashikant Tiwary - were recovered from the spot. The assailants fled with Singh's car and his guns, including two AK-47 rifles, some SLR guns and two US-made semi-automatic guns, said sources.
Singh, 55, was the Rohtas area commander of Ranvir Sena, a ferocious outfit of upper-caste Bhumihar and Rajput landlords that orchestrated dozens of massacres of poor dalits in southern Bihar in the 1990s. Originally a criminal with dozens of cases such as murder, robbery and abduction pending against him at several police stations, Singh was released from jail on bail two months ago.
After the brutal murder of Brahmeshwar Singh alias Mukhia, the dreaded chief of Ranvir Sena, on a dusty road in Ara town on June 1, 2012, this is the second murder of a top commander of the private militia. A close associate of Mukhia, Dhanji Singh had been secretly running Ranvir Sena's activities in Bihar since 2012 and had even contested the 2015 Assembly polls in Nokha constituency as an independent candidate unsuccessfully.
Dhanji Singh joined Ranvir Sena a couple of months after the Maoists killed nine people, including six policemen, in an attack on Rajpur police station and Baghaila police outpost in Rohtas district on June 30, 2007. He had later shot dead four Dalits at Charpookhari village in a revenge attack.
"The three murders seem to have been meticulously planned and executed as police did not find any empty cartridge or the Scorpio car near the bodies. Dhanji Singh's men are believed to have perpetrated the attack," said Rohtas SP Manavjeet Singh Dhillon. Singh's wife Kiran Devi lodged an FIR naming eight of his bodyguards, and police are conducting raids to arrest them and recover the car, he added.
Sources, however, said Dhanji's murder could be a result of the rising caste-related animosities in southern Bihar arising out of his activities to regroup and revive Ranvir Sena. A police official said Dhanji's intense rivalry with a gang in Sasaram over sand mining could have led to his elimination.
Formed in 1994 by Brahmeshwar Singh 'Mukhia,' Ranvir Sena allegedly orchestrated over 29 massacres of Dalits who had been supported by leftwing rebels of CPI (Maoist). The militia, possessing arms and plentiful funds, symbolised the upper castes' struggle for reclaiming political power that they lost in the wake of the Mandal movement. The outfit no longer exists formally, but there are indications of many upper-caste people still swearing by it and looking for ways to revive it.