Anti-encroachment drive leaves 12 injured

RANCHI: The district administration’s move to remove encroachments from the city with an iron fist turned violent on Sunday as a 400-strong mob, mostly squatters, threw stones at police, prompting the law enforcers to retaliate with a lathicharge. The clash left about 12 people, including six men in khaki, injured.

As the 24-hour deadline to remove encroachments was over, two dozers along with one company of police (100 personnel) came to the Naga Baba Khatal area in the morning. Immediately, around 400 people, gathered in the area, started pelting the police personnel with stones. Police resorted to lathicharge and also threw back the stones to the protesters to disperse them.

Six police personnel and six squatters were injured in the clash, sources said. As the earth moving machines got to work, a gas cylinder burst in which a portion of the khatal caught fire and the walls of a shop were damaged.

Two fire tenders were engaged to douse the flames. One more company of riot police and water cannons were also pressed into service to bring the situation under control. Soon the protesters gave up to the police action and many were seen taking their belongings to safer places.

Women wept along with their children as their houses were demolished and men prayed for stopping the anti-encroachment drives. Many requested subdivisional officer (SDO) Shekher Jamuar to give them one more day to move their belonging to safer places.

Jamuar said prior notice had been issued to squatters to vacate the place but no one heeded to the order prompting the district administration to take action against the violators.

Ashish Yadav, a squatter whose house was demolished, described the drive as inhuman and said some more time should have been given to them. “We have been staying in this area for the past 60 years and now the district administrations asks us to vacate the land in 24 hours. Arrangements for our rehabilitation should be made first,” said Yadav.

SSP Praveen Kumar Singh additional dozers were engaged so that entire area became encroachment-free. “Around 200 police personnel including riot control personnel were pressed into service to remove encroachment,” said Singh.

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