A clash between police and people protesting against a project of the NTPC claimed four lives and left more than 20 injured in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh district Saturday.
The four were killed when police opened fire to control the crowd, which had turned violent. Three victims have been identified as Abhishek Rai (17), Mohammad Mehtab Ansari (30) and Ranjan Ram (17). The fourth has been identified as Rajesh, but police are yet to gather information about his family.
Addl SP (Operations) Kuldeep Kumar, Circle Officer Shailendra Singh and two other policemen were injured in the clash and had to be airlifted to Ranchi, where they were hospitalised.
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Heavy force has been deployed in the area. CM Raghubar Das condoled the deaths and directed top state officials to look into the incident.
The incident occurred when a mob attacked a police party escorting local Congress MLA Nirmala Devi, said police. Nirmala Devi is leading the protest against the project at Chirudih village in Barkagaon. The NTPC was allocated a coal block in Barkagaon in 2004 to set up a power house. Local villagers have been demanding higher compensation and jobs in the coal mining projects at Pakri-Barwadih in Barkagaon.
Police said that on September 28 and 30, protesters disrupted operations at the NTPC facility. The PSU later lodged two FIRs.
Police said that on Saturday, protesters led by Nirmala Devi stopped NTPC staff from working. “Senior officials urged them to call off the stir, but to no avail. Eventually, police took Nirmala Devi in custody. The police party was returning to Barkagaon, when a mob attacked it at Dandi Kala, barely 2 km from Chirudih,” said DIG Upendra Prasad. Calling it a pre-planned attack, he said, “The protesters put wood logs and rocks to stop the vehicles.”
Director, District Rural Development Agency, S V Prabhakar, who witnessed the violence, said, “A mob of around 1,000 attacked us. They helped the MLA out of the vehicle. The MLA assaulted a policewoman. The mob then damaged the vehicle,” he said. They also targeted the other vehicle, he said. “The Addl SP and CO were assaulted.” Meanwhile, Prabhakar said, forces reached the spot and lobbed teargas shells to disperse the mob. When that failed, they opened fire.
The Congress MLA could not be contacted. Her husband and former minister Yogendra Sao, who too is an accused in FIRs registered by NTPC, said he was unaware of her whereabouts.
Family members of three victims said they were not taking part in the protest, and had only stopped there seeing the commotion when they were shot.