SIT links Jharkhand killings to Pathalgadi movement, PLFI
The SIT was constituted to find the reasons behind the crime. A police officer who asked not to be named, said the SIT will submit its report to the government in the next two to three days.Updated: Feb 01, 2020 08:42 IST
A special investigation team (SIT) constituted to investigate the killing of seven villagers in Burugulikera village in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district on January 19 has found that the so-called Pathalgadi movement was the prime reason behind the conflict between the two groups involved in the incident, and that Maoist splinter ground People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) was also involved, police officials said on Friday.
The SIT was constituted to find the reasons behind the crime. A police officer who asked not to be named, said the SIT will submit its report to the government in the next two to three days.
“The village was divided into two groups. One led by pro-Pathalgadi movement leader Ransi Budh, whose wife is the village head, and other by James Budh, who was opposing Pathalgadi. On January 16, a group led by James attacked the home of Ransi . They wanted to retrieve rations and Aadhaar cards of villagers confiscated by the village head. The group then distributed these documents back to the villagers,” said the police officer.
He said that James was accompanied by area PLFI commander Mangra Lugun, who was armed. “The weapons Lugun was carrying were the reason that Ransi Budh did not physically stop them from ransacking her home,” the officer explained.
Indrajit Mahatha, West Singhbhum’s superintendent of police (SP), confirmed the PLFI’s involvement and said that Lugun was close to James Budh.
Pathalgadi is a movement that can be traced back to the 1990s where local village bodies erect stone carvings (literally pathalgadis) signifying their authority over their villages. The movement gathered fresh momentum since 2016 when changes in laws by the then ruling Bharatiya Janata party government made transfer of tribal land easier — something the locals opposed.
The police officer said while Maoists were believed to be supporting Pathalgadi, the PLFI has opposed it. PLFI was formed in 2007 by a renegade Border Security Force jawan, Dinesh Gope, after his elder brother was killed by a local gangster Jainath Sahu.
Under the alleged patronage of then government, which saw in it a means to wipe out the Communist Party of India (Maoist), PLFI grew its area of influence and became a dominant force in Kunti and West Singhbhum. “There is raging war between the Maoists and PLFI in Khunti and West Singhbhum,” said a retired Indian Police Service officer who asked not to be named.
The SIT also found that accused Ransi Budh and some other villagers met Kunwar Kesri Sinh, one of the prime movers of Pathalgadi. Sinh’s name cropped during 2017 Pathalgadi movement in Jharkhand, during which several villages in Kunti and West Singhbhum districts had placed stone slabs declaring self rule and prohibited entry of outsiders into the villagers, leading to crackdown by the local administration.
“Ranshi Budh, his brother Sukhram Budh and six-seven other villagers from Burugulikera went to Gujarat last year and were also getting funds from there,” said another SIT officer, who too asked not to be named.
The SIT reached this conclusion on basis of the testimony of the two anti-Pathalgadi villagers, Ghusru Budh and Sukwa Budh, who escaped even as seven other members of their group were brutally killed. The SIT has arrested 17 so far. “The two have confessed that they were part of the group that ransacked five houses including that Ransi Budh,” the second police officer said.