Seven beheaded in Jharkhand village, CM Soren sets up SIT
Police said it took them 24 hours to recover the bodies of the seven and a search was on to find out two other villages, who had gone missing along with them.Updated: Jan 23, 2020 07:42 IST
Seven people have been beheaded in a remote village in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district, some 200 km from the state capital Ranchi, police said on Wednesday while specifying that it was not immediately clear what triggered the killings and that it would be known only after a probe.
West Singhbhum police superintendent Indrajit Mahatha underlined it is a coincidence that the seven were anti-Pathalgadi movement activists while the alleged attackers its supporters. “We will be able to speak about the conclusive Pathalgadi link only after further investigation,” he said.
Pathalgadi refers to a traditional practice among Munda tribals of erecting stone slabs (called pathals) in honour of their ancestors, to announce important decisions and demarcate boundaries of villages. In 1996, when the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act was enacted, many tribal villages erected stone slabs quoting provisions of the law that allowed self-rule through gram sabhas. In 2017, these slabs resurfaced in several villages of Kunti and West Singhbhum districts in protest against then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s attempt to acquire tribal land for development projects. This came to be called the Pathalgadi movement.
Police said it took them 24 hours to recover the bodies of the seven and a search was on to find out two other villages, who had gone missing along with them. They were on Tuesday informed that the seven had gone missing from the village in the Maoist insurgency-hit region. A search operation was launched on Tuesday morning before it had to be suspended because of security reasons.
Mahatha said the operation resumed with the deployment of the additional police force on Wednesday and the bodies were found deep inside a forest. “An anti-Pathalgadi group of nine people was summoned to a meeting in Burugulikera village by Ransi Budh, husband of former Mukhiya [village head] Mukta Horo, who has led Pathalgadi movement. Those summoned included deputy village head James Budh, whose body was also found. Two of the nine managed to escape and are still missing.”
Mahatha said the meeting was called after a group led by James Budh tried to demolish some homes in the village including that of Ransi Budh on last Thursday. “The reason for demolishing the homes of supporters of Ranshi was that James wanted to prove his dominance in the village.”
Mahatha said three people have been detained and separate cases had been filed.
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, who has set up a Special Investigation Team to probe the incident, called the massacre “unfortunate” and said the law would take its own course. “No one has the right to take the law into their hands. I will be taking details of the incident and proper action will follow,” Soren said.
Opposition BJP has accused the government of trying to cover up the murders. “The state is shocked by the killing of seven tribals on the 25th day of the new government. The Hemant Soren government, which is a self-proclaimed sympathiser of the tribals, is trying to cover up the incident,” said BJP leader Arun Oraon.
BJP chief JP Nadda has also formed a six-member panel, which would visit the affected village.
Mahatha said they had no information of the violence that preceded the killings. He said Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Kuldeep Dwivedi has suspended Gudri PS officer-in-charge Ashok Kumar with immediate effect for negligence and dereliction of duty.”
Mahatha said Mukta Horo has alleged that villagers led by James Budh had destroyed five houses and beaten them up them on January 16.