A 46-year-old teacher, taking a tea break near Namkum railway station, 10km from Ranchi, after dropping his children to school, was shot dead from point-black range on Tuesday morning.
The two unidentified men, who came on a bike and wore helmets, had a brief exchange of words with Ratan Gope before they pumped three bullets into his forehead, neck and chest around 7.40am. He died on the spot, triggering a roadblock for four hours.
According to the victim’s father Sorai Gope’s statement to police, the teacher who ran his own village cradle, Jaipal Singh Public School, was killed in broad daylight on the behest of an influential land broker of the area, Rajesh Nayak. The bereaved elderly man also named Nayak’s three aides — Badal Paswan, Anil Ram and Shankar Gope — as party to the crime.
“For the past six months, Nayak and his men have been terrorising our family over a plot of land we own. We had lodged a complaint against him, but police are hand in glove with the land mafia. My son was a peace-loving person. He is dead now,” Sorai told reporters later.
The murder sparked angry demonstrations, with villagers blocking the Ranchi-Tatisilwai road until and raising slogans against Namkum thana in-charge Sapan Kumar Mahatha for “patronising” the local land mafia. The protest quelled around noon after Hatia DSP Nisha Murmu, Ranchi mayor Asha Lakra, deputy mayor Sanjeev Vijayvargiya and others reached the spot.
Ratan Gope’s body was sent for to RIMS in Ranchi for post-mortem.
DSP Murmu said an FIR had not been lodged till Tuesday evening because the victim’s family wanted to perform his last rites first.
“No arrest has been made, but two persons have been detained for questioning. The murder centres round an acre of land owned by the Gope family at Jorar bustee. Apparently, six months ago, Ratan’s stepbrother forged papers and signatures to sell the land to Nayak. The family has been protesting the broker’s several attempts to take possession of the plot ever since. Family members have accused Nayak,” she said, also confirming that a complaint had been lodged against the broker earlier for threatening the Gopes.
According to an eyewitness, Ratan dropped his two children at Bishop Westcott School in Namkum and came to the station area looking for some tea. “He was speaking to another villager. After that man left, two bikers wearing helmets stopped near him. There was a quarrel. The bikers took out a pistol and just shot him (Ratan),” the local resident said.
Another vouched for Nayak’s notoriety. “He eyes every good plot belonging to poor farmers and tribal in Jorar bustee. Most of the time, he forces them to sell it at throwaway price. The Gopes are resourceful and hence, could oppose his grab attempts. But, they paid dearly.”
Land disputes are not just common; they are in abundance in Ranchi. It is a fact that even police make no bones about. “Acre rows often turn violent. We have seen two cases in the recent past where even nexus of brokers and criminal gangs have surfaced,” city SP Anoop Birtharay said, adding that it was challenging situation for police.
Former chief minister and BJP leader Arjun Munda expressed concern over the spate of killings in Ranchi.
Demanding immediate arrest of the accused in the Gope case, he criticised the Hemant Soren government for failing law and order situation. Ratan was associated with the party.
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