Indian Maoists kill 35 villagers

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JEHANABAD IS the most violent district in the most lawless state in India, and late on Thursday night its dark reputation was reinforced when 35 people were massacred in the village of Senari.

A senior police official said that the men responsible tied the hands and feet of all the males of the village and then beheaded them. It was the fourth mass killing in Jehanabad since the beginning of the year. On 25 January 22 people were killed, mostly women and children, in a Dalit (Untouchable) village. Eleven more Dalits were shot dead on 10 February, and another seven on 14 February.

All three of these atrocities were said to be the work of the Ranvir Sena, a private militia fighting for the interests of the high caste, feudalistic landlords in this unreformed corner of the northern state of Bihar.

Thursday's slaughter was alleged by police to be an act of reprisal by members of an ultra-left guerrilla group, the Maoist Communist Centre, who are usually depicted as the champions of Bihar's landless Dalit peasantry, for the earlier round of massacres.

Thursday's killings caused a predictable flurry of political activity, with noisy protests in state and national parliaments and many protestations of grief from senior politicians.

On the ground, however, Bihar remains as ill-governed and perhaps even ungovernable as it has been for years.

The present state government is run by Laloo Yadav, a charismatic but clownish politician. Twice recently the central government has tried to remove it so the state could be ruled from Delhi. However in February, the Congress Party, which sees a useful ally in Mr Yadav's party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, forced the government to back down.