Four villagers were killed early Saturday when police opened fire on protesters whose land was acquired by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in Chirudih area in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh district.
“The police had to resort to extreme measures since the protestors abducted our men on duty and started thrashing them. Few of our officials were severely injured. As many as four protestors died in the incident,” said police spokesperson, inspector general MS Bhatia.
The police also issued a press statement saying MLA Barkagaon, Nirmala Devi and her husband Yogendra Sahu and their supporters had been on dharna outside Pakri-Barkagaon mining area from September 15 demanding the stoppage of mining in the area. On Saturday morning in order to diffuse the situation, the administration deputed magistrates and police force to the area.
“Team successfully arrested MLA and was retreating. On the way back in village Dandikala, the vehicle was stopped by the crowd which snatched the detenue. Both magistrates and addl SP were in the next vehicle. Crowd made them deboard the vehicle and tried to take the officers with them,” the police statement said.
According to the police, director DRDA was saved by the PSOs but the addl SP and circle officer, Barkagaon, were abducted and taken to the adjoining fields where they were so badly beaten that they lost consciousness.
The SP and DDC who were monitoring the development from Barkagaon police station, rushed reinforcements including crowd control units after getting an emergency call.
“Crowd was warned but did not budge despite of using tear gas shells and rubber bullets. Then as a last resort, director DRDA ordered opening fire as self defence and in view of the grave threat of losing lives. It is reported that 4 protesters have died in the police firing,” the statement said.
Seven officials are among the injured including addl SP and CO who are said to be critical and have been aerially evacuated to Ranchi for treatment, police said.
“Of the 15 injured, nine have been referred to RIMS while six are undergoing treatment in the hospital,” said Dr AK Singh of Sadar Hospital. Singh added that two bodies had been brought for postmortem.
Police said that they had recovered one body while the other was still with the villagers.
Authorities have clamped prohibitory orders in Barkagaon in a bid to avoid further violence.
The deputy inspector general of police, Hazaribagh is camping at Barkagaon where aditional forces and officers have been sent.
More than 500 villagers from different villages of the Barkagaon had been staging Kafan (shroud) satyagrah for last 10 days in Chirudih area of the NTPC site. However, they become aggressive when police and administrative officials arrived and asked them to end their agitation.
The villagers alleged that police first lathi-charged them to break up their agitation, and on being opposed they opened fire.
The NTPC had acquired 8,056 acres of land for one of its biggest projects – the Pankri-Barwadih coal mining project in 2010. But work could not start due to the villagers demanding higher compensation, employment and rehabilitation. The agitation of the villagers intensified after NTPC reportedly initiated the mining work.
Jayant Sinha, union minister of state for civil aviation, on September 29 had come up with a rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) package to end the impasse. His proposal suggested mining be done only on land acquired “voluntarily” and on non-controversial government land.
In August, two persons were killed and 40 were injured in clashes between villagers and the police in Gola in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh.
The villagers were protesting over a power plant for which they stood to lose their homes, when the violence broke out.