Jharkhand: Unprovoked Firing

Hundreds of people participated in a demonstration in front of the Hazaribagh Commissioner’s office on July 26 demanding a probe by a sitting judge of the High Court to enquire into the firing on peaceful protesters in Chatti-Bariyatu in Hazaribagh on July 23, which had led to the death of a protester and injuries to a few others.

The unarmed villagers were protesting against forcible construction of a shed on their land without their consent. Negotiations were going on between the peasants and the management of the NTPC which was interested in acquiring the land. As the NTPC management had not agreed to provide adequate compensation for the multi-crop land to the peasants and guarantee rehabilitation and resettlement including employment, no settlement was arrived at.

The multi-crop land is the economic base of the whole area producing paddy, wheat, pulses and different cash crops including vegetables which are sent to different markets of the industrial district of Hazaribagh.

Two Coal-Blocks were allocated to the NTPC on January 25, 2006. But as no work started within the stipulated period, the allocation was cancelled on June 14, 2011.

Further, environment and forest clearance for the Chatti-Bariyatu and Keredari Coal block which had been allocated to NTPC in January 2013, were issued only recently. The area covered by the said two Coal-Blocks of Keredari and Chatti-Bariyatu areas are about 1400 Acres including multi-crop land of six villages.

The land, in question, where the construction was taking place leading to protests is part of the de-allocated coal block.

Bakshi with an Injured at the HospitalA joint team of the CPI(M) & CPI visited Chatti-Bariyatu in Hazaribagh on July 25. The team consisting of CPI (M) State Secretary Gopikant Bakshi, Member of State Secretariat Prakash Viplav, Secretary Hazaribagh district committee Ganesh Kumar Verma, Shahikant, Sanjay Prasad, Rambilash Singh {all of CPI (M)} and Mahendra Pathak from the CPI met the wife and members of the deceased Keshar Mahto  and the families of those injured. They also met the injured villagers admitted to the Sadar Hospital.

Speaking to the delegation, villagers revealed how the management of the central public sector undertaking, NTPC, connived with contractors and the police. The police action against peaceful protesters was unwarranted. The firing took place in broad daylight without any provocation from the side of the villagers. There was no warning whatsoever. The police chased the villagers nearly half a kilometer away from the construction site and opened fire indiscriminately.

The intent of the police becomes clear when one looks at the injuries. The deceased Keshar Mahto had gun short injuries on his head and belly. Ramesh Mahto was shot at on the right jaw while Makhan Mahato suffered a bullet injury on the knee. Two critically injured villagers, Nanu Mahto and  Rahul Mahto have been admitted to the Government hospital in Ranchi, the state capital.

The CPI(M) has demanded an enquiry by a sitting judge of the High Court, proper punishment for those responsible for the firing, Rs. 20 Lakh as compensation to the family of the deceased and adequate compensation and proper treatment for those who have suffered injuries. It has also demanded a restriction on acquirement of the land of villagers until proper policies for acquisition   of land is finalized by the Central government. Protests were organized in different parts of the state on July 24.

Ranchi, July 27, 2013