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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Jharkhand: Nagadih turns into ghost village

ON THE RUN Jharkhand village where three were lynched last Thursday deserted by residentswho fear arrests

ranchi Updated: May 26, 2017 20:07 IST
B Vijay Murty
B Vijay Murty
Hindustan Times, Ranchi
Deserted Nagadih village as villagers fled after locking their houses in fear of arrest after recent violence on a lynching incident in Jamshedpur
Deserted Nagadih village as villagers fled after locking their houses in fear of arrest after recent violence on a lynching incident in Jamshedpur(Manoj Kumar/ HT Photo)

An eerie silence engulfs the tribal village, broken occasionally by mournful bleats and bellows of goats and cattle in paddocks of abandoned homes.

The front doors of 108 of the 142 houses in Nagadih were padlocked. The lanes and byways were empty.

There was a not a soul, barring a dozen old people and some women who stayed put after last Thursday’s mob lynching of three men in the village.

The menfolk of Nagadih were the first to leave, fearing arrest and torture for the crime. The women and children followed next. Those who remained keep themselves locked inside their homes and come out only for chores they can’t do without.

A couple of women, who were fetching water from a borewell, hurried away when they saw a police jeep approaching on Tuesday.

“I’m a widow and work as a labourer with contractors. Since the lynching, I haven’t gone out. I have run out of money. I’m afraid I will be targeted by the victims’ families if I go out alone,” said

Bano Soren, among the 18 women and six men who didn’t flee. The men, four of them with senior citizen cards, mustered courage to stay back after police declared them innocent.

“I was taken to the police station. I told them whatever I knew. They released me assuring not to arrest me as I am a senior citizen,” said Gopanith Hasnda.

It was mid­afternoon but glowing light bulbs were visible in some of the deserted houses. The fleeing villagers didn’t bother to switch off the lights. Thieves are having a field day. And people from neighbouring areas are avoiding taking the road through the village.

Nagadih on the outskirts of Jamshedpur, the steel city of Jharkhand, is a model village of about 800 people with good tarred roads, a school, a football field, and a panchayat building gifted by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL). It’s known far and wide for its cleanliness.

The village was always abuzz with activities until Thursday afternoon’s action. A 1,000­strong mob caught hold of three men and an old woman from neighbouring Jugsalai on the suspicion of being child traffickers who have come to “steal kids” from Nagadih.

They tied brothers Vikas and Gautam Verma, their grandmother, and family friend Gangesh Kumar Gupta to an electricity pole near the village school. A shower of punches and kicks and blows and stabs with sticks and sharp weapons killed the siblings and Gangesh.

The eldest Verma brother, Uttam, could have been dead too. He was taken hostage, but he managed to escape in the dark when a police car pulled up and the crowd got distracted.

The siblings were in the village to put up advertising banners of their new enterprise, a company that builds toilets.

“I sympathise with the families of the three … They seemed innocent. I don’t know who killed them and why. Now we’re facing the consequences,” said Dukhhi Soren, cursing the killers.

According to senior police superintendent of police Anup T Mathew, five Nagadih men were arrested for the lynching.

“There could be a land dispute angle as not all people in the mob were Nagadih residents … I don’t give much credence to the childtheft allegations.”

Flakes of red were still visible on the electricity pole and the soil around it — a gory reminder of the mob murder.

Cries of the tethered, hungry livestock reminded of the tense present.

First Published: May 25, 2017 09:12 IST