Pandu village in Hazaribagh bore an eerie calm Saturday. On Friday evening, it witnessed stone-pelting and arson after an argument between two communities during a Ram Navami procession. Nearly a dozen houses were torched and a 65-year-old, Abdul Majid, died after falling off a roof as he was trying to escape the violence. Three dumper trucks owned by the former village head were gutted. The former head, Rabbani Miyan, has been accused of misusing government funds.
Police have registered three FIRs. No arrests have been made yet. Of the more than two dozen injured, four have been referred to RIMS, Ranchi. They are reportedly out of danger.
Pandu, nearly 50 km from the district headquarters, is a Muslim-dominated village, while nearby hamlets Benvari, Beldeori and Tehersa have a high Hindu population. Traditionally, Ram Navami processions from these hamlets meet near Muslim settlements. Muslim community elders are engaged to ensure peace.
Mohammad Tayyab, 60, a community elder, said: “After the processions met, they returned to Toond Chowk. Here, an argument started between youths from both communities. Things escalated when one of them struck a light and threw it at one of our houses.”
Abdul Sattar, another elder, said he was in Basariya when he heard announcements on a loudspeaker urging people to reach Pandu “where Hindus had been attacked”.
“First, they torched one Masoom Miyan’s house and then the other houses. One Ejaz’s shop was looted,” he said, adding that money Masoom had saved for his daughter’s marriage turned to ashes. Asked who set afire nearly half-a-dozen houses of Hindus, Tayyab alleged they could have done it on their own to play victims.
Majid’s widow Rozini Khatoon said a rioter pushed him off the roof. Others claimed he hid on the roof during the violence and fell while trying to flee.
The Hindus, most of whom have fled to Basariya, claimed a call from the mosque triggered the stone-pelting. “The processions met near Ejaz’s shop and returned to Toond Chowk. There was an argument. A call was made from the mosque after which people started pelting us with stones from rooftops,” said Pandu resident Ganesh Singh.
“It appears anger against the former village head led to the incident,” said SP Akhilesh Jha.