A charred SUV and a burning truck at Jatpura village in Garhwa on Friday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, May 19: Licensed sand contractors, who opened fire apparently to save themselves from an angry mob protesting the use of JCB machines, are being blamed for three of four deaths this morning at Piprighat on Banki river in Garhwa district with police saying that cases would be filed against both parties to the dispute.
So far, only one person, an associate of the contractors, has been arrested.
According to sources, at 8am, around 30-40 residents of Jatpura village, 45km from the district headquarters, objected to contractors Dharamver Singh, Sanjeev Singh and their men collecting sand from the ghat using a JCB machine, which they claimed was leaving behind craters on the riverbed and making it flood-prone.
There were heated arguments, which escalated into a clash. Soon more villagers joined in and surrounded the contractors. Their bodyguards sensed trouble and opened fire in the air. But villagers claimed that three of them were killed as a result.
Villagers retaliated and set fire to an SUV, two JCB machines and 12 trucks that were lined up to transport the sand. In the melee, another person died. He is said to have been working for the contractors.
Police got to know of the clashes within 15 minutes. Officers in-charge of Bishnupura and Nagar Utari police station were able to reach the spot with teams by 8.45am. But the angry villagers stopped them and prevented them from sending the bodies for post-mortem.
It was only around noon, said Bishnupura OC Barnwas Toppo, that they managed to pacify the villagers. "The situation is under control, but the area is still tense. We have deputed sufficient number of police in and around the area to prevent trouble," he said.
Police said the three who died after sustaining bullet injuries belonged to a family. They have been identified as
Uday Yadav (55), his sons Niranjan (35) and Vimlesh (30).
The fourth person who died was working for the contractor, but his name couldn't be ascertained. Sources said he was tenant at the house of one Nanak Yadav. The mob went to Nanak's house and dragged him out and beat him to death, the sources added.
"The contractors' men opened fire first. In retaliation, the villagers killed one of their staffers. Contractors' men have fled the spot. We will trace them soon. Cases will be slapped on both parties once the situation stabilises, following further investigation," said Toppo.
Garhwa SP Alok said Suresh Pal, an associate of the contractors, had been arrested. He was nursing injuries at a trauma centre at Nagar Utari. "The flashpoint was sand mining, but how and why it turned violent needs to be probed. I rushed to the spot, but no one is talking at the moment," he said over telephone.
The OC said the contractors had valid licences to mine sand and had taken due permission from the district mining department. But, the villagers were objecting to the use of JCB machines, which, they claimed, left craters that would lead to flooding of the riverbank.
"Villagers have for long been protesting against the use of JCB machines. They wanted sand to be mined using manual labour. But contractors wanted to save cost and time and hence preferred the use of JCBs," Toppo said, adding that the villagers claimed that a funeral ground and chhath ghat nearby were facing a flood threat.