According to Bihar Animal Husbandry Minister Giriraj Singh, slain Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh 'Mukhiya', accused in 29 caste massacre cases, was a 'Gandhian thinker' and a farmer leader.
The minister's comment, declaring Mukhiya a Gandhian 'Vicharak' (thinker) has raised many eyebrows in the state. The comment is ironic, since the slain chief was a controversial man, known for his alleged involvement in killing of over 300 people, mostly belonging to poorest of the poor Dalits, backward caste and Muslims.
"Mukhiya was a Gandhian thinker and a farmer leader, who had faith in peace and social harmony," said Singh, who is also a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader.
Singh, a vocal supporter of Hindutva and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi ,also blamed the opposition for large-scale violence and arson across Bihar after the Mukhiya's murder.
He is not alone; some other BJP leaders have been also trying to paint the slain chief as a hero.
Ranvir Sena was formed in 1994 in Belaur village of Udwantnagar block in Bhojpur district by Singh, former mukhiya of Khopira panchayat. The Sena was dominated by upper caste Bhumihars.
Its victims were usually landless labourers and peasants. The Sena said it was committed to protecting the rights of farmers, and was avenging the murders of members of the upper caste, often land-owners, who were killed by the Naxals during their insurgency in Bihar in the 1980s and 90s.
The Sena's deadliest strike was in the Lakshmanpur Bathe area in 1997, in which 58 Dalits were killed. In 1999, the Sena massacred two dozen Dalit men, women and children in Shankarbigha village of Jehanabad district.
Mukhiya was arrested in 2002 from Patna for the murders of 21 Dalits in a village in Bhojpur in 1996. He spent nine years in jail. He was released on bail in 2011. In April this year, the Patna high court ruled that the prosecution had not been able to prove its case against him and others accused of the massacre.
Singh has downplayed the involvement of supporters of Ranvir Sena in violence and arson after Mukhiya's murder, even though it was widely reported that thousands of supporters of the Sena indulged in violent and arson across the state including Patna.
Mukhiya was killed by unidentified gunmen on Friday morning in Ara town in Bhojpur district, triggering violence by his supporters.