Fifteen people were arrested on Sunday in connection with the murder of seven villagers allegedly by supporters of the “Pathalgarhi” movement in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. The accused have been sent in judicial custody.
The development comes days after a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe was ordered by state Chief Minister Hemant Soren.
The killings were apparently a fallout of a clash between a pro-Pathalgadi group and an anti-Pathalgadi group. Those accused of the killings had not taken ration and pension and availed any government service, while the other side was not rejecting government services.
Earlier, police had alleged that supporters of the ‘Pathalgarhi’ movement, armed with lathis and axes, kidnapped seven villagers and later killed them for allegedly opposing their stir on January 21. After an overnight search operation, bodies of the seven villagers were recovered from the forest, 4 km from the village.
After holding a meeting over the ‘Pathalgarhi’ movement in the village on Tuesday, a dispute arose between the villagers and the supporters, following which the seven villagers were killed, Inspector General of Police (Operation) Saket Kumar Singh had said.
“The government doesn’t give the right to anyone to take law in their hands. Lots of rumours are being spread but govt will take strict and unbiased action,” Chief Minister Soren had said while ordering an SIT probe into the incident.
Pathalgarhi is a name given to a tribal protest which seeks autonomy for village sabhas (Gramsabhas). Those demanding Pathalgarhi want no laws of the land to be applicable to the tribal people in the area. The Pathalgarhis reject government rights over their forests and rivers. As part of the movement, Pathalgarhis erect a stone plaque or signboard outside the village/area, declaring the village as sovereign territory and prohibiting the entry of the outsiders.
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