One dead after Jharkhand police clash with Pathalgadi supporters blocking search for abducted guards
Police used batons to disperse Pathalgadi supporters during the search operation related to the kidnapping of three policemen in Jharkhand’s Khunti district.Updated: Jun 27, 2018 23:10 IST
A person was killed and several others were injured on Wednesday when a mob of Pathalgadi supporters clashed with police forces that raided Khunti’s Ghagra village to rescue the three abducted house guards of BJP’s Khunti parliamentarian Karia Munda, police said.
Before the police action, the villagers had successfully shifted the guards through forest area to some unknown location out of the forces’ clutches.
Police said a large number of villagers stopped around 500 armed personnel from entering the villages by firing arrows at them from tree tops and elevated positions.
In retaliation, the police used cane charge, tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Police estimated about 5,000 villagers including women and children were present in the village at the time of the clash.
A police officer said that the clash lasted about two hours before the police got control of the small village, where the police suspected the guards were kept. “One person had died in the clash but he is yet to be identified. Search operations are on,” said South Chhotanagpur range IG Naveen Kumar.
Kumar said around 200 persons including some police personnel were injured in the clash and a large number of bows and arrows, apart from vehicles, were recovered from the village.
Police said after a fierce clash, most of the villagers fled into nearby forest areas while some were apprehended and detained. Police took the village under its control and later in the evening some forces were diverted towards forest area and nearby villages to carry on the search operation.
The clash happened after high drama in the village on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning with Pathalgadi supporters holding a meeting of gram sabha (a body of villagers) that continued till early morning with a strong contingent of 600 police personnel waiting outside the village believing that the guards will be released.
A police officer said that the forces did not enter the village in the night as the Pathalgadi (declaration of self-rule) leaders had hinted that they would release the Jharkhand police guards and were willing to negotiate.
“Only after we learnt that the leaders have fled with the guards, we decided to enter the village,” a police officer said.
Police said that people from several nearby villages including youngsters and women had come to attend this meet which was addressed by their Pathalgadi top leader Yusuf Purty and others.
Police has accused Purty of masterminding the gang rape in a bid to prevent outsiders from entering the village as part of Pathalgadi movement which has spread to over 100 villages in Jharkhand in the last one year. Most of these villages are situated in dense forest areas said to be the hotbed of rebel outfit People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI).
In his address to the gram sabha, Pathalgadi leader Yusuf Purty said that their self proclaimed government had arrested the guards who were under gram sabha’s custody.
“They would be released only after the President of India, the Governor and the supreme court’s judges would come before the gram sabha to make constitutional interpretation to clarify the powers of a tribal gram sabha,” a local quoted Purty as saying.
Nagendra Munda, who was detained by the forces, said, “Our leaders had asked us to attend the meet. They would have imposed a fine Rs 500 if we refused to attend.”
Khunti superintendent of police Ashwini Kumar Sinha said the three accused of gang rape of five women anti-human trafficking activists were also present in the meeting. The police have already arrested the two other accused, who had reportedly confessed to committing the crime and forcing the victims to drink urine.
The Wednesday incident was fallout of a 300 strong mob of Pathalgadi supporters attacking Munda’s house at Chandidih village and abducting three guards, a day before the police had come to detain the Pathalgadi leaders accused of master-minding the rape of the five tribal women activists earlier this month.