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Mystery over death in stone quarry

Radheshyam Choudhary, (40), an alleged member of the infamous quarry mafia, was found dead under mysterious circumstances at Karwandhia in Rohtas district in the early hours of Sunday.

The news about the mysterious death of Choudhary, a native of Khadaha village under the jurisdiction of the Mufassil police station in Rohtas district, came within 24 hours of an altercation between two groups allegedly involved in illegal mining in the region.

Rohtas superintendent of police Vikas Barman said the victim’s body was handed over to his relatives after post-mortem. “The autopsy report would reveal the cause of his death,” he said, adding that the report would be available within a couple of days.

Sasaram deputy superintendent of police Ashish Anand said Choudhary’s body was found near a temple at Karwandhia, infamous for illegal mining, around 165km west of Patna.

Anand admitted that illegal mining activities were going on in the area despite a ban imposed by the state government.

He added that a mob attacked a police team when a vehicle carrying stone chip was seized on Saturday. Windscreens of a crane, which was pressed into service to lift a tractor from a roadside ditch, and a police patrol vehicle were partially damaged in the stone pelting by the unruly crowd.

Superintendent of police Barman had a narrow escape on Saturday when a tractor carrying stone chips partially hit his official vehicle near Karwandhia.

The mishap occurred when the superintendent of police, along with his deputy Anand and forest department range officer A.K. Verma, was on his way to Sasaram, the district headquarters town, from Dehri-on-Sone.

The driver of the tractor, however, managed to escape after abandoning the vehicle on the spot. “Instructions have been issued to the Mufassil police station house officer Dharmendra Kumar to lodge an FIR against the owner of the tractor, which was seized from the spot later,” superintendent of police Barman told The Telegraph.

This is not for the first time when the mining mafia attacked the police at Karwandhia. Earlier, Barman’s predecessor Manu Maharaaj, now the Patna senior superintendent of police, had survived an attack when a group of armed men fired at him indiscriminately during an operation in 2012. Subsequently, 51 people were arrested in the case.

Needless to say, the illegal mining has been going on unabated in the region with the tacit support of some influential politicians.

The names of a few politicians, including BJP’s former state president Gopal Narayan Singh and former independent MLA from Dehri Pradip Joshi, figured in the FIR lodged in connection with illegal stone quarrying.

The mining on the Kaimur plateau was declared illegal after the state government turned down the proposals for renewal of licences for the same in March 2012.

Acting swiftly, Rohtas district magistrate Sandeep Kumar R. Pudakalkatti in April last year cancelled the licences of 194 quarrying units operating in the district.

The district administration also launched a special drive to check illegal mining activities in Dharmapura, Neema and Gopibigha villages. During the drive, 35 illegal stone crusher units were demolished and machines used for mining were seized.