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Meera’s hamlet rises in rage

Hulhundu (Ranchi), May 28: Having stopped all traffic, till their demands are met or indefinitely, on the crucial Ranchi-Chaibasa highway, the villagers in Sarna Toli and Shatranji were today determined not to allow politicking over the body of 19-year-old Meera Suman Kujur, who was shot by police yesterday.

Angry women, who are at the forefront of the agitation here, aided by furious youths, said they had clamped “janata curfew” on the highway.

A bus coming from Chaibasa was burnt today on the road. The highway is littered with charred vehicles over a one-km stretch. This correspondent was escorted to Hulhundu by local boys on motorcycles.

“We are waiting for the men in khaki to come this side. We have not seen them since last afternoon. Meera, a second year student of St. Paul’s College in Ranchi, was shot at close range for no fault of hers. Let the police come to Hulhundu now,” shouted a young girl sitting near Meera’s body.

Police have “vacated” the area. The nearest they could be seen was in Tupudana, two km away, where some RAF jawans and a riot-control vehicle were stationed.

But yesterday was different. Several rounds were fired in and around the village, home to the Sacred Heart Convent, because the authorities said the residents disrupted the primary teachers’ test.

“Eleven villagers, including two women, have been arrested. Three — Phulmani Barla, Mariam Nag and Poulose Tirkey — are missing, while over a dozen have been injured. The police entered the village. Meera was with her mother at a house under construction near Sacred Heart.

“She was shot from a few metres. Her mother, a widow, pleaded with the policemen to spare her bleeding daughter. The policemen said they would shoot her as well. They dragged away the girl’s body and later took it to Hatia police station,” said a person who claimed to be an eyewitness.

The boys said the police were not taking the body to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences for post-mortem. “On repeated requests, they sent it to Rims. After the post-mortem, the policemen did not hand over the body to the villagers. They left it at Tupudana. We brought the body here late in the night,” said a youth now wanted by the police.

Several wanted leaders of the agitation have visited the villagers. The government has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of Meera and Sudhir Sahu, the 10-year-old boy killed yesterday.

At Meera’s house, a large group of villagers, including a large number of women, had gathered since morning for the funeral. A few politicians, including a Congress MLA, were also there. A friend of Meera, who did not wish to be named, gave the names of all the injured and those missing. “Is this chief minister really a tribal' He orders the killing of tribals. His police opened fire on villagers without warning. Meera asked for water but they dragged her away,” she said.

Villagers said the women were beaten with rifle butts. Some of them are admitted to a nursing home in Ranchi. “I was sitting inside my house when suddenly the policemen entered. They did not ask anything and started beating me with batons,” said Katherine Tirkey who was hit on her arm.

Many villagers said the trouble started after the policemen targeted Yeshudas Khalkho, the principal of Prakash High School, which was a test centre. “The principal was not a trouble-maker. But he was hit. This infuriated the villagers who went on the rampage after that. The magistrate on duty must be penalised and action should be taken against policemen who unleashed mayhem here,” they said.

Meera’s funeral procession was well attended. It snaked through the hills and village alleys before reaching Fathima Catholic Church. A priest from Ranchi, Lucas Tirkey, conducted the funeral mass. “Meera was raising her voice against injustice in her own small way. Please remember her for what she did. We do not know when justice will be done. We have to remain united. No one will fight our battles. We pray also for the administration so that it works in people’s interest and ensures justice,” Lucas said in his message.

Sacred Heart principal Sister Jossy said: “One of our workers, around 65 years old, was beaten up. He sustained injuries in his leg. We were not even informed that our school was a test centre. We usually do not hold such public examinations. But we received orders to hold the test,” she added.

As the procession reached the burial ground, a pall of gloom descended. A woman spread a bedsheet on the ground to collect donations. Meera’s body was laid to rest.

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