Bandh enforcers take out a bike rally (clockwise from top right) on Main Road in Ranchi on Thursday while police personnel try to maintain law and order on capital streets where supporters staged demonstrations all through the day. Pictures by Prashant Mitra
The daylong Ranchi district bandh — sponsored by various tribal and non-tribal organisations to protest Tuesday’s clash in Shilagain, Chanho block, which left one person dead and many injured — evoked mixed response in the capital on Thursday.
While most schools had declared a holiday anticipating commuting trouble, colleges too suspended classes for the day. Business wasn’t brisk either. While shops along Main Road downed shutters, the few establishments that remained open here and there saw no takers as residents enjoyed an unofficial holiday.
Force versus force
More than 700 supporters of Kendriya Sarna Samiti, Adivasi Chhatra Sangh, Adivasi Chhatra Morcha, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal enforced the bandh on capital streets to protest against what they called an organised attack by minority community members on tribal villagers in Shilagain.
On the day of Id, 40 persons reading namaz on a common plot of land had triggered a verbal duel between the two communities, which culminated in a 5,000-strong mob from the minority community attacking tribals, killing one Dashrath Oraon and injuring 39 persons.
To avoid a rerun and any untoward incident for that matter, as many as 500 Jharkhand Armed Police and Rapid Action Police personnel were deployed on the capital streets on Thursday.
Around 350 bandh enforcers were arrested through the day and kept in temporary confinement at Birsa Munda Football Stadium in Morabadi. Former Assembly Speaker and Ranchi MLA C.P. Singh was among them. He was held from Albert Ekka Chowk where he was spearheading a “peaceful” demonstration.
“Police do not act where and when required. They use force on law-abiding citizens. My arrest is a glaring example. I, along with 200 supporters, was arrested for staging a peaceful demonstration against an organised attack on tribals in freedom fighter Budhu Bhagat’s village on July 29. But, the same police behaved timid when innocent villagers were being targeted,” Singh said.
The MLA also alleged that Kotwali DSP Deepak Ambastha used a lathi on some bandh supporters near Albert Ekka Chowk.
City SP Anoop Birtharay denied charges. “It was only preventive arrests. The demonstration was peaceful. All were released from the camp jail in the evening,” he said.
While the bandh paralysed a chunk of the city, with big businesses like GEL Church Complex, Firayalal market, Big Bazaar and Bargain Bazar remaining closed, there were isolated areas where life was normal. These included Kali Mandir Chowk to Eqra Masjid Chowk on Main Road, Ashok Vihar to New AG Colony More on Kadru Road and Purani Masjid to Imli Chowk on old Harmu-Kishoregang Road, which are dominated by the minority community.
Near Karbala Chowk on Church Road, an Id fair was organised on Thursday, and children from Islam Nagar, Gudri, Kantatoli and Hindpiri were seen enjoying the rides along with their parents.
City buses took a break, but a limited number of auto-rickshaws and rickshaws plied on capital roads during the day. Around 10am, a group of examinees for the JAC compartmental were spotted walking to their venue from Kantatoli. “Rickshaws are demanding Rs 30 to drop us to St John’s School. It is steep and we decided to walk,” said Sanjay Kumar, one of the examinees.
According to police, the bandh was peaceful except for sporadic violence on the outskirts of the city. While a van carrying vegetables was torched in Makhmandro in Mandar thana area, 30km from Ranchi, a tyre shop was also set on fire at Bijupara under same police station.
Gumla and Simdega also observed a bandh on Thursday. Vehicular movement remained suspended at Jhulan Singh Chowk along Ranchi-Gumla-Simdega road from 6am to 9am.