The two men who managed to escape before their seven neighbours were killed on January 19 in Burugulikera village of Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district have told the police that the conflict between those supporting Pathalgadi and those against led to the killings.
Ghusru Budh and Sukhwa Budh, who were in hiding, returned to the village on Monday after police assured them of safety.
A police officer, who is part of the investigation, said Ghusru and Sukhwa have said they wanted to apply for caste certificates and needed the village head’s signature. But village head Sukhram Budh — one of the arrested accused — refused to sign as he is from the pro-Pathalgadi faction, they have said.
“The two told us that they were irked and nine of them went to the colony of pro-Pathalgadi people and started ransacking everything. They said all those people now rejecting government services had earlier availed houses through Awaas Yojna and bought motorcycles from loans they got using government documents and, therefore, they ransacked a few houses and motorcycles,” said the officer.
The two have told police that after this incident, the villagers sent people to nab all of them and bring them to the meeting area, said the officer. “During this, the two of them had escaped.”
The seven others were killed and their decapitated bodies were recovered later. Two FIRs have been registered — one for the murders and another for ransacking the homes. Fifteen people have been arrested for the murders. No arrests have been made in the ransacking case.
Police said Ghusru and Sukhwa are crucial “eyewitnesses” for the incident.
The Pathalgadi is an old tribal system, seeking autonomy for gram sabhas. The Pathalgadi movement began in 2017-18 when giant stone plaques came up outside villages in Jharkhand, declaring gram sabha as the only sovereign authority. In Burugulikera village, those supporting the practice did not vote and rejected government welfare schemes.
SP Chaibasa Indrajit Mahata said the investigation is on and added, “We are questioning these two to ascertain the chronology of the entire incident.”
Earlier, Nathuram Budh, brother of one of those killed, had also told The Indian Express that the tiff between the pro-Pathalgadi and anti-Pathalgadi factions led to to the killings. However, Mukta Horo, the wife of one of the accused, had claimed Pathalgadi was not the reason behind the murders.
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