Jayant Sinha gives Clean Chit to Hazaribagh Police

– 'MLA leading people to vinash'

 UPDATE: Former MLA, Yogendra Sao of the Congress and husband of present MLA, Nirmaladevi Sao has been arrested this afternoon

Hazaribagh/Ranchi: Union minister and Hazaribagh MP Jayant Sinha who came to assess the situation today at NTPC's Pankri Barwadih coal mine, Barkagaon, in the wake of the October 1 police firing on a land acquisition protest that killed five people, could not visit the site due to Section 144 of CrPC clamped in the troubled spot, but despite this, was quick to give a clean chit to the police after seeing video footage of that day. Admitting innocents became victims – three teenage students and a young tailor, whose relatives said they had no involvement in the protests, had fallen to the bullets – Jayant urged villagers not to be curious onlookers at times of trouble.

On a day Opposition parties held a meeting together to decide on a statewide bandh on October 24 and leader of Opposition Hemant Soren dubbed the police firing as"cold-blooded murders", Jayant reached Hazaribagh after flying in from Delhi to Ranchi to meet hospitalised officials injured in the mob attack.

The Union minister said he was "deeply pained" over the incident but had seen video footage available with the administration and added that he was convicnced that the police followed protocol during the protest. "I saw the clips in which CO (circle officer) Shailesh Kumar Singh requested with folded hands to the crowd to give them passage to Dadikala village (where the firing took place). I saw the police requesting villagers to allow them to do their duty," he said.

Barkagaon Congress MLA Nirmala Devi's arrest for leading the anti-land acquisition agitation, which had triggered the mob into forcibly releasing her and beating up two officials that fateful day, had also been done following protocol, the Union minister said."She (Nirmala) was arrested at 6.30am in the presence of women constables," Jayant, who met Hazaribagh DC Ravi Shankar Shukla and SP Bhimsen Tuti, said. Charging Barkagaon MLA Nirmala, now traceless, and her husband, former state agriculture minister Yogendra Sao, to be the minds behind the villagers' agitation against NTPC's land acquisition, with misleading poor people, Jayant said: "It's very unfortunate that villagers were diverted from vikas (progress) to vinash (destruction). I would say that pati-patni (Sao and Nirmala) played their game again."

"But I will also say a high-level committee formed by chief minister Raghubar Das is probing into this case and so we should wait for its final outcome," he added. The police had enough evidence to prove they acted as per law, first firing tear gas shells and rubber bullets to control the mob, he said. "When situation didn't come under control they fired in air and then took the final decision to fire on trouble-makers," he added.

He also reiterated the NTPC compensation package for land acquired for coal mining was better than those offered by the CCL in other places. Money is not the answer, however. This is rich arable land which earns the farmers, the region and the country precious income in agriculture.

But, this is something people of Barkagaon are not buying, at least now. For many land-losers in Barkagaon, MLA Nirmala and her husband Sao, a discredited politician accused of running extortion gangs in the recent past, are heroes fighting their cause for "fair compensation", much higher than Rs 20 lakh per acre agreed by NTPC. The problem is "grave", B.B. Mohapatra, a human resource official at NTPC, told Thomson Reuters.

Late on the evening of Monday, October 3, the Hazaribagh police lodged FIR against CPI(ML) legislator from Rajdhanwar (Giridih) Rajkumar Yadav, former parliamentarian Bhuvaneshvar Prasad Mehta, MCC leader Mithilesh Singh and four others for going to Barkagaon villages yesterday to meet families of those killed in firing, in violation of Section 144 clamped since Saturday. They also filed an FIR against three para-teachers taking part in MLA Nirmala's agitation.
In a larger context, the disturbing image of the police firing at farmers over land acquired or to-be acquired for an industrial purpose has given enough fodder to Opposition parties JMM, JVM and Left to target the BJP government as anti-people and pro-capitalist. Even BJP ally Ajsu is distinctly uncomfortable, its spokesman Deosharan Bhagat doing a balancing act by saying they were "with the farmers" but waiting for results of the chief minister's inquiry report.
These acts of state repression have been widely protested for the past four days in Jharkand. The 'national' electronic media is however silent on the issue.



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