Brahmeshwar Mukhiya, who headed the banned, upper caste militia Ranvir Sena, was shot dead on Friday morning by unidentified people at his village in Bihar's Bhojpur district. This part of north-western Bihar is tense. Buses and offices have been set on fire by supporters of the Ranvir Sena. Curfew has been declared in the town of Arrah.
Bihar's senior-most cop, DGP Abhay Anand, was also heckled by Mukhiya's supporters after he arrived at the site where the latter was killed. Protesters are adamant that Mukhiya's body will not be removed from the spot away till Chief Minister Nitish Kumar does not come to the site there.
In the 90's, the Ranvir Sena played a role in many of Bihar's infamous massacres which targeted 200 Dalits including women and children. The Sena or army was formed in 1992. Its victims were usually landless labourers and peasants. The Sena said it was committed to protecting the rights of farmers, and was avenging the murder 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 Ranvir Sena's deadliest strike was in the Lakshmanpur Bathe area in 1997, in which 58 Dalits were killed.
Brahmeshwar Mukhiya was arrested in 2002 from Patna for the murders of 21 Dalits in a village in Bhojpur in 1996. The Sena chief spent nine years in jail. He was released on bail in 2011. Since then, he lived in his village in Bhojpur, maintaining a low profile. 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.
Maintaining law and order after his murder will be a critical test for the administration of chief minister Nitish Kumar. When he was elected in 2005, one of Mr Kumar's promises was that he would rid Bihar of its cycle of caste-based violence. Through a strong police force and administrative reforms, he has been largely successful so far.