Members of the Special Investigation Team at Burugulikera village in Chaibasa. (Express photo by Abhishek Angad)
Mukta Horo, whose husband and former headman of Burugulikera village in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district has been arrested in connection with the killing of seven people, said Pathalgadi had nothing to do with the murders.
Seven persons were killed in Burugulikera on Sunday evening and their decapitated bodies were recovered on Wednesday. It is alleged that the killings were a fallout of a clash between a pro-Pathalgadi group and an anti-Pathalgadi group.
Those accused of the killings had not taken ration and pension and availed any government service, while the other side was not rejecting government services.
Horo, the wife of former headman Ranasi Budh, denied any link between Pathalgadi and the killings. She alleged that James Budh, one of the victims, and others would drink and create ruckus.
“They were told several times to desist from such acts, but to no avail. On January 16, they ransacked our houses and also beat up a few people. One of them beat me up...two of our neighbours are also missing,” she alleged, adding that James was part of the group which beat up people.
Asked about her stand on Pathalgadi, she said, “We burnt our documents and rejected government services to protect our land, among other reasons. We have been doing this for one year. We have been peaceful and never imposed anything on them...But they provoked us.”
Nathuram, brother of James Budh, has alleged that Ranasi Budh pressured them to submit their documents and reject government services. He has alleged that the ransacking story was “cooked up”.
Horo, however, said, “We were very angry. A meeting was called where nine people who were responsible (for the ransacking) were asked to attend...Two of them ran away, the villagers tied up the seven others, after which the killings happened.”
On Friday, an SIT headed by district SP Indrajit Mahata went to the spot of the meeting on Sunday and the place where the bodies were recovered.
A senior police officer said they received a tip-off of a large gathering on Tuesday evening. “The pro-pathalgadi people had convened another meeting and around 700 people had gathered. When we reached there, we were not allowed to enter and everyone was aggressive.”
After the bodies were recovered on Wednesday, pro-Pathalgadi villagers allegedly put up barriers. “They repeatedly asked who had given us the location of bodies...The SP was told that he was their sevak and made to sign in a few places,” the police officer said.
Another police officer said the father of Boas Longa, one of the victims, said they too attended the meeting on Sunday. “He said that the meeting decided that they will be punished because they had committed a mistake. The father agreed that they should be punished, but he did not know that they would be killed. However, when we asked him to identify those involved, he said it was dark.”