On the overcast morning of 22 October, 60-year-old Kailo Sada sat wistfully beside the ashes of his burnt house. Kailo resides in the Chhamasia village in Bihar’s Khagaria district. Like most others in the village, he is a member of the Musahar community—a Dalit sub-caste that is one of the lowest castes in the traditional hierarchy, and the members of which are identified as Mahadalits in Bihar. In the midst of open marshlands, paddy fields and river streams, the village of Chhamasia appeared out of place—black tarpaulin sheets covered destroyed homes, household belongings lay scattered in the open, and the residents wore similar looks of helplessness and despair. Kailo, a father to four children, was one among several villagers sitting and mourning amid the rubble that remained of their homes.
Two attacks on Chhamasia on consecutive days had forced many of its residents to flee and lent the village, which comprised over 200 households only a week earlier, the appearance of a desolate refugee camp. On 17 October, the residents told me, a large group comprising members of the dominant-caste Yadav community, and jawans of the Special Task Force—a specialised force of the Bihar police that deals with organised crime and Maoist extremism—threatened them, asked them to leave the village, and then raided and looted their houses. The next night, the residents said, the Yadav mob returned to the village and set fire to at least 80 houses belonging to those of the Mahadalit community.
“Charo taraf se gher liya, chapamari kar liya”—They surrounded us, raided our homes, Kailo told me, crying and fumbling for breath as he spoke. Omprakash Sada, his neighbour, who appeared to be in his fifties, was sitting next to him. He described the attack: “At around 9 pm, firing their guns, they came from that side,” he said, pointing east. “They came and set our homes on fire.” Omprakash continued:“Kaha ki madarchod Musahars ko sabko beeg denge. Jo milega usko beeg do behenchod ko”—They said, “We’ll get rid of all the motherfucker Musahars. Whoever we find, get rid of them, the sisterfuckers.