Thursday, September 15, 2005

Priest killed during tribal clash in Jharkhand village

Manoj Prasad

RANCHI, SEPTEMBER 13 A day after Maoists killed 15 people in Bhelwaghati village in the Giridih district on Sunday, a Catholic priest was killed in a clash in neighbouring Simdega.

The clash occurred between a group of tribal protesters and some traders who had defied the tribal-sponsored bandh the previous day.

Father I Bara, who was taking part in the protest, had tried to intervene. "He was hit with an axe and lathis. He died on the spot," said eyewitnesses.

Three others, who were injured, are undergoing treatment at a local hospital, Simdega SP V K Pandey told The Indian Express.

Two persons, Rajesh Prasad and Saryu Prasad Yadav, have been arrested. "Some more arrests are going to take place soon," said Pandey.

CRPF forces have been deployed in the area.

On Tuesday, an uneasy calm prevailed in the tribal dominated villages in this Jharkhand district.

The trouble between the tribals and the non-tribals had started following a judgment by the Jharkhand High Court on September 2, which declared the clauses of the state government's Jharkhand Panchayat Raj Act, 2001 and the Union Government’s Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, as illegal and led to the indefinite postponement of the panchayat polls.

The two laws had effectively reserved all posts of panchayat pradhans in Scheduled areas for the members of the Scheduled Tribes. There however, are pockets in the Scheduled areas, where tribals are a minority. Consequently, the verdict has left the state starkly polarised.

While non-tribal outfits like Sadan Adhikar Manch and Moolwasi Manch - which demanded the postponement of the poll till the laws were amended - are overjoyed, the Adivasi Adhikar Manch (AAM), which was formed after the verdict was issued, was up in arms.

On September 8, a bandh was observed. The next day, hundreds of tribals led by the AAM, the United Goan Democratic Party MLA Bandhu Tirkey and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha President Shibu Soren, had gheroaed the Raj Bhavan.

The state government is maintaining a studied silence on the issue. "We are not going to challenge the order," Chief Minister Arjun Munda has said. The AAM leaders, including Soren, however, have asked Munda to move the apex court.

Click to View Source (Indian Express)