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Trader killing spurs Khunti shutdown

Ranchi, Feb. 9: Three days after Khunti’s well-known transporter and BJP senior office-bearer Birendra Jaiswal was gunned down, the shocked district town, 35km from Ranchi, held a 12-hour-long bandh today to protest against lawlessness in a place once famed for its history, schools and hockey champions.

Roads were deserted and shops closed as people responded fully to the bandh call given by local traders and Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FJCCI), Khunti chapter, protesting against commonplace killings and demanding fast arrests and convictions.

Three bike-borne assailants gunned down Jaiswal, a leading businessman in the district, on the busy Torpa Road area near the collectorate on Thursday last week.

Just two days later, on February 8, grocer Sohrai Swansi was gunned down by 10-12 unidentified suspected CPI(Maoist) members in Murhu area of the district.

In November 2013, prominent businessman Banwari Gupta, his son and an auto-rickshaw driver were killed in broad daylight at Soiko bazaar under Murmu police station area. Rebels owing allegiance to PLFI were held responsible.

Police have not made any arrests in the Jaiswal and Swansi murders. One person was arrested last week in connection with the November trio murders.

“Jaiswal’s murder, prima facie, has nothing to with levy or Naxalites. We have certain leads and are working on them, which indicate personal enmity due to business rivalry,” Khunti SP Anish Gupta, a 2008 batch IPS officer who joined the district in November 2013, said.

Be it rebel violence or hired gangsters, Khunti — the venue the state’s Knowledge City and Indian Oil Corporation Limited’s Paradip-Raipur-Ranchi pipeline project — lives in fear.

“Anyone who is successful in Khunti feels he can be a target. I may also get killed. I’ve seen many acquaintances being gunned down,” a successful practising lawyer in Khunti said.

He recalled two other well-known cases. “A couple of years ago, well-known businessman Pawan Gupta was gunned down in Marangadha bazaar area in which two persons were arrested. In 2006, popular leader of social outfit Teli Samaj Jai Prakash Kashyap was gunned down, but the police could not crack the case,” he said.

A local journalist said Khunti, a historical area of importance — it was the birthplace of the Birsa movement — as well as a well-known hub of schools and hockey players, is only in the news for violence nowadays.

“In December 2011, thousands had blocked Netaji Chowk to protest against as many as 17 murders shook the district in 47 days and brought traffic to a standstill on the road linking Ranchi with Khunti,” he said.

Frequent IPS transfers seem to go hand-in-hand with soaring crime figures. Since 2011, Khunti has seen the following SPs — Aseem Vikrant Minj, Manoj Kaushik, Amarnath Mishra, M. Tamil Vanan and Anish Gupta.

Speaking over phone from New Delhi, Karia Munda, Khunti BJP MP, also Lok Sabha deputy Speaker, said he was aware of the deteriorating law and order in his constituency.

“I have been raising this issue for sometime. But it seems the district police is not paying much attention. Police need to pull up their socks,” he said.