At least one person was killed and ten others, including seven policemen, were injured on Saturday when police opened fire on a restive mob that was heading towards Ranchi to attend a tribal akrosh rally. The mob assaulted several policemen and held officials hostage. The incident occurred at Seko village under Murhu police station area of neighbouring Khunti district, around 50 km from the state capital.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin and Rs 1 lakh each to the injured. He called the incident unfortunate, saying there was no place for violence in democracy.
At least 40 tribal organisations coming under the aegis of Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha had called for an akrosh rally in Ranchi’s Morabadi Maidan Saturday afternoon. They had claimed that nearly one lakh people would attend the rally.
The police said that Additional SP (Operations), DSP and his bodyguards, besides officer-in-charge Arki police station were held hostage by the mob and were being assaulted, when the bodyguard opened fire in self-defence.
According to the police, around 1,000-1,500 people, armed with sticks and some traditional weapons, gathered at Seko village around 10 km from the Khunti district headquarters.
The gathering of the mob was one event, which was being tackled as per law. However, it was when an official returning from another duty was held hostage that the situation turned violent.
The police had not stopped them. They were gathering there, probably waiting for other groups to join and then move towards Ranchi. Firing took place in self-defence, said Khunti Deputy Commissioner Chandrashekhar.
A Jharkhand police spokesperson said: Additional SP, Anurag Raj, was tied up with ropes and was being beaten. When DSP (headquarters) Vikas Kumar Laguni moved in with his police team, they started stone-pelting. He sustained a fracture in his hand. Meanwhile, Arki Officer-in-charge Hardev Prasad also tried to save the officer held hostage. But, he too sustained injuries. DSP’s bodyguard, Nagendra Sharma, was seriously injured when he was attacked with an axe in the head. It was after that he resorted to firing in self-defence. At least seven police personnel have been injured. They have been brought to Ranchi for treatment.
The mob also blocked most of the roads and intersections in the Khunti main town, as a result of which Khunti SP Anish Gupta could not reach the spot immediately. Later, the situation was brought under control and DIG (Chotanagpur) R K Dhan reached the site.
The police further said that Abraham Munda, in his 50s, a resident of Kolme village in Murhu police station area, died in the firing and three women Nisha Purti, Shani Purti and Sugra Mundu sustained injuries. All of them have been rushed to RIMS for treatment.
The police also said that some of those participating in the violence were linked to the Maoists and its splinter group Peoples Liberation Front of India (PLFI).
The rally was called to protest against the ordinance that seeks to make amendments in the two tenancy Acts, Chotanagapur Tenancy Act and the Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act. Some of the other demands included implementation of the Sarna Code (tribal religion) and no victimisation in the name of removal of encroachment on government land.
The organisers alleged that the administration was doing everything possible to stop the people from attending the rally. While heavy security was deployed in Ranchi city, vehicle checking operations were launched in its rural areas, they alleged.
In fact, from some districts like Simdega, buses are not being allowed to ply to Ranchi, said Morcha’s coordinator Karma Oraon.
Another tribal leader, Prem Shahi Munda said: People are being stopped from coming to Ranchi at all the places, including Lohardaga etc. However, still a good number of people reached the rally. It shows the anger against the state government.
The administration officials, however, denied that there was any deliberate attempt to stop the rallyists. We have been running checking exercise every month. It is sheer coincidence that the rally and the checking drive coincided. In fact, even this checking was going on since the last three to four days. No bus going to the rally was deliberately stopped. In fact, many bus owners simply decided not to bring their vehicles on the route for fearing of being fined, said Simdega Deputy Commissioner Vijoy Kumar Singh.
On the other hand, Das attended a gram vikas sammelan programme, in Dhurva area a few km away from Morabadi where he called upon the people not to be fooled by those, who have treated tribal as vote banks. They are angry with my government because I have stopped their business, which was to use unemployed youth to hold up their party’s flags for votes, he said.