The Telegraph
Saturday , August 2 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Chanho clash blow to trade & faith
- Friday veggie business of Rs 1.5cr reduced to trickle

Chanho (Ranchi), Aug. 1: Tuesday’s inter-commu-nity clash in village Shilagain, Chanho block, that killed one, injured several and fuelled flare-ups over the next couple of days, is baring two major casualties — local economy driven by vegetable trade in tatters and deep schisms of fear and suspicion among neighbours.

Along NH-75, Chanho’s Friday wholesale vegetable market, which usually does trade worth Rs 1.5 crore in a single day, did barely “2 per cent” of normal business (Rs 3 lakh) today, rued the few sellers who braved it to the site, despite it being only 50 metres from the police station.

“Chanho is a famous vegetable market in eastern India, selling everything from gourds to capsicums. We buy vegetables from farmers and take them to the markets of Jamshedpur, Bokaro, Ranchi, Calcutta and even Varanasi. Every Friday, trade is worth some Rs 1.5 crore. Today, we hardly got anything to buy,” said Md Sharif, a wholesaler who came all the way from Sarai Toli, 10km away.

In Shilagain, the epicentre of the trouble, battle lines are entrenched despite the lack of mobs, either of the minority community or of tribals.

After a mob of 5,000 minority community members attacked tribals on Tuesday, men who feared tribal retaliation fled the village. They aren’t back. Their women and children are left to fend for themselves in an atmosphere of simmering animosity. Never mind that essentials — rice, pulses, milk for children — have run out.

In Kabristhan Tola, Shilagain, Madina Khatoon said their food had run out. “Du dina se kuch ni khai hi. Chaur, dail, sab khatam hoi jai hai (Since two days we have nothing to eat. Rice, pulses, everything has finished),” she said, adding they faced a volley of abuses even if they went out to fetch drinking water.

Her neighbour Shabnam, face drawn, whispered she didn’t have milk powder for her son.

It’s called social boycott and 24-year-old Khadija knows it. Forced to travel 15km to Chanho primary health centre for a leg wound dressing, she was put on a bicycle. “There’s no other way,” she said. “Who will put me on an auto, forget ambulance,” she said.

A woman who didn’t want to be named alleged all the men from the minority community had been jailed.

Even the children are too scared to look up at choppers doing aerial surveys. This was the third consecutive day of aerial surveys over the area. Ranchi IG M.S. Bhatia, south Chotanagpur commissioner K.K. Khandelwal also did a recce.

Subdivisional officer (SDO) Amit Kumar posted a new block development officer in the area, Shalini Vijay, known to have worked here before.

The SDO added that an inter-community peace meeting was also held at Kisan Bhavan, Chanho block campus, this afternoon.

On the way ahead, a tribal resident of Shilagain, Shivpujan Bhagat, said villagers of the two communities had lost faith in each other. “Faith is important. We think that Tuesday’s attack by 5,000 people was pre-planned. Rebuilding faith is essential,” he said.

A tribal woman angrily added: “You talk about peace but don’t see their mistake.”

But, when a mistake leads to a chain of retaliatory mistakes, truce is a must to survive. Abdul Quadir, a vegetable wholesaler from Sarai Toli in Chanho, said sagely: “Aman nahin to tarakki nahin. Yadi aisa kuch din chala sabhi bhukhe marenge (No peace, no progress. If this situation continues, everyone will starve).”