Ranchi, Aug. 19: Denials by the army and the chief minister appear to have failed to pacify villagers in Latehar, Gumla and Lohardaga, who are protesting against the revival of the Netarhat field firing range.
The army had suspended use of the range in 1994 in the wake of massive protests but villagers are convinced that attempts are being made to revive it.
Flanked by leaders of the Kendriya Jan Sangharsh Samiti, which has been spearheading the agitation, Dumka legislator Stephen Marandi today announced plans to gherao the Assembly on August 22 and impose “Janata Curfew” on Gumla and Lohardaga from August 23 to oppose the revival.
Accusing the state government of allowing the army to have its way, Marandi recalled that he himself had led a delegation to defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, who had assured the team that firing would not be resumed at Netarhat.
Although the chief minister says that the project will not be allowed, alleged Marandi, the chief secretary had apparently accepted the army’s request to demarcate 3,500 sq km in the area to revive the firing range. Confirmation came, he said, when villagers spotted a few army trucks moving towards Netarhat recently and the army drivers informed them that a massive movement of arms and ammunition had been undertaken.
When only 1,471 sq km had been notified for the project, said Marandi, as many as 2.75 lakh people were affected.