Hazaribagh (Jharkhand): On October 1, the local police fired on unarmed anti-mining protesters in the village of Badkagaon, killing at least four (two other deaths are reported but not confirmed). Three days later, the area remains in a state of fear. From first-hand accounts from the villages of Chipa Khurd, Dadhi Kala and Kanki Dadhi, it is clear that the police force is anything but repentant.
The villagers were protesting the acquisition of their land for coal mining by two private sub-contractors for the public sector power company, NTPC.
Mahtab Alam from Chipa Khurd was one of the men shot and killed on October 1. According to his paternal cousin, Iliyas, ‘The CRPF forces barged into the village last evening [October 3] around 4pm and started beating villagers randomly. What kind of a state are we living in, where we have to fear the barbarism of the police? The police beat up four shepherds who were tending to their cattle, saying that they used shepherding as a cover up.’
‘All the people from our village have vacated their homes and gone away, some to their relatives, others elsewhere to safer places,’ Iliyas said. ‘There is such fear of the forces, and of getting assaulted that no one dares remain here.’
‘Children took to the paddy fields to hide,’ said Birendra Kumar of the Ekta Parishad, a coalition leading the protests. ‘While some people locked themselves in their homes to escape the unannounced brutality of the forces.’
A similar scenario appears to be playing out in neighbouring villages. The escaping villagers share stories, eye-witness accounts and Whatsapp images of smashed doors, damaged furniture and injured villagers. Their authenticity is still unclear as communication is difficult to establish. Those among injured reportedly include Jatan Miya, Indul Miya, Klauddin Miya from Dadhi Kala; Sitaram Rana and Manoja Khatun, mother of the vice-sarpanch of Sindwari.
Meanwhile, villagers are staging a sit-in protest and roadblock in Badkagaon, with Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Babulal Marandi of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and senior leaders of the CPI-M and Congress visiting to challenge the lethal police attacks of October 1.
The Hazaribagh Superintendent of Police, Bhimsen Tuti, could not be reached for comment. Additional Superintendent of Police Kuldip Kumar also could not be contacted; he was one of two policemen injured in a scuffle on October 1 and has been hospitalized.
This video, shot by journalist Javed Iqbal, captures the atmosphere of grief and fear in the homes of Hazaribagh.
Iliyas’s elderly parents, his wife and two daughters – aged nine months and five years – are among those who remained. ‘We decided that we wont leave the village, no matter what. We have been a part of the anti-mining movement for over a decade. How can we cave in to the fear of police now?’
Note: The story has been edited to change an incorrect reference to one of the men shot and killed at Chipa Khurd on October 1. He is Mahtab Alam and not Mohammed Rafique. The error is regretted.