Hundreds of tribals blocked roads at three places in Barhait block of Sahibganj district on Sunday, demanding arrest of those who damaged the statues of Santhal heroes Sido and Kanhu Murmu and beat up their descendants at Bhognadih village.
Sido and Kanhu had led the Santhal tribals’ rebellion against the British and landlords in 1855 to protest grabbing of their land through moneylending at high interests. The Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, 1949 was the outcome of this struggle, which protects land rights of the tribe.
Tribal organisations and political parties are opposing the Raghubar Das government’s move to amend provisions of the Act to allow diversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, such as laying roads and setting up industries.
Some people damaged the statues on Thursday evening and assaulted descendants of Sido-Kanhu, including a pregnant woman, when they tried to stop them. The hooligans also damaged the Sido-Kanhu Park, police said.
Protesters, beating drums and wielding lathis, blocked Barhair-Barharwa roads for around four hours, demanding that a case treason be lodged against the accused and steps taken to prevent such acts.
“Police have arrested five people. Raids are going on to arrest others. The blockade was lifted after the administration told people that it has taken the case seriously,” said Sahibganj sub-divisional officer Mrityunjaya Kumar Barnwal.
Police lodged an FIR against eight people, including two brothers, and booked them under charges of rioting, breach of peace and assault on women.
Tribals in Pakur district also protested against vandalisation of the statues.