A simmering land dispute triggered ugly clashes between tribals and non-tribals on the outskirts of Jamshedpur on Thursday, leaving 12 persons injured and forcing deployment of the Rapid Action Force.
Six youths were rushed to hospital in the morning following a pitched battle between two groups over an alleged eve-teasing incident at Nidhitola in Parsudih. Later, a 200-strong mob ransacked houses belonging to non-tribals and tried to set the homes on fire despite police presence. The Rapid Action Force restored order though tension prevailed in the tribal dominated locality till reports last came in.
Relations between the tribal and non-tribal residents of Nidhitola have been strained for quite some time over ownership of government land on which 40 non-tribal families have built houses over the last decade.
Trouble started around 10am on Thursday, when a non-tribal girl was allegedly teased by a group of tribal youths. When residents Ashok and Manoj Kamath objected, they were thrashed by the girl’s tormentors. As news of the assault spread, a group of non-tribal youths arrived at the spot and thrashed the tribal boys. Soon about 20 youths on each side were battling with sticks and iron rods, when the police were informed. A party led by Parsudih police station officer-in-charge Dayanand Shah rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control.
Though 30 policemen, including seven armed personnel, were stationed at the spot after the morning fracas, matters came to a head again around 4pm when 200 tribal youths, armed with swords, bows and arrows, swooped down on the area.
They smashed doors and windows of houses belonging to non-tribals and forcibly tried to evict them. “Some of the attackers also broke the chairs the policemen were sitting on. Fearing for their lives, the police remained a mute spectator as the boys went on a rampage,” said an eyewitness.
The attackers poured kerosene on some houses and tried to set them on fire, but were stopped on time with the arrival of extra forces. Deputy superintendent of police (law and order) Kanhaiya Upadhyay who rushed to the spot, for the second time during the day, called in the Rapid Action Force, following which the mob dispersed.
The afternoon attack left five persons injured, two of them seriously.
Over the last six months, a faction of tribals led by one Salkhan Chandra Mardi has been trying to oust the non-tribals on the premise that the latter built their houses without permission of the gram sabha, a statutory tribal body. According to the tribals, the gram sabha was the only legitimate authority to determine whether anyone could settle on government land in a tribal area. The non-tribals, belonging to Bengal, Bihar and Odisha, were under pressure to move out.
Meanwhile, sources in the district administration said the land row that triggered the clash involved plots that the 40-odd families had bought illegally from the land mafia over the years since 2000. The plots varied between one and one-and-a-half cottah in size.
Sub-divisional officer of Dhalbhum Subodh Kumar said the houses were on encroached government land, and hence illegal.
“Whether the gram sabha is involved or not, building houses on government land is illegal, and the government will take action against the house owners,” he said.