Jharkhand man brutally thrashed, burnt alive for violating ‘Khuntkatti’ laws

Express News Service

RANCHI: A man was thrashed by the villagers at Besrazara Bazaar Tand under Kolebira Police Station in Simdega and later burnt alive in broad daylight in presence of police, allegedly for cutting trees illegally and selling them in the market, which is a violation of ‘Khuntkatti’ law. 

According to villagers, the deceased, identified as Sanju Pradhan, was warned at least twice during Gram Sabha meetings. Pradhan was asked to stop cutting the trees, but he did not pay heed to the warnings. The villagers then decided to teach him a lesson.

‘Khuntkatti’ system is joint ownership or holding of land by tribal lineage. The Munda tribals would usually clear the forests and make the land fit for cultivation, which would then be owned by the whole clan and not a particular individual.

Though the police reached the spot after getting the information about Pradhan’s execution, they remained mute spectators looking at the huge crowd. Later, additional forces were roped in but only after the crowd dispersed and the charred body of the victim was recovered by the police.

“Sanju Pradhan alias Sanjay Pradhan alias Bhau, who belonged to Bambalkera village, was allegedly involved in cutting ‘Khuntkatti’ trees in the region against which the villagers had lodged a complaint with the forest department. However, no action was taken against him. On Tuesday, the villagers held a meeting, following which Pradhan was nabbed and thrashed brutally and torched,” said Simdega SP Shams Tabrez. 

The SP said the half-burnt body was recovered from the place of occurrence and sent for post mortem. Action will be taken after lodging the FIR, he said.

“The incident was a reaction against regular cutting of ‘Khuntkatti’ trees in the village. Though the villagers had lodged a complaint with the forest department, they never approached police for the same,” said the SP. The deceased is a history-sheeter and was chargesheeted in three Maoist-related cases lodged with different police stations in Simdega, he added.

Villagers also informed that Pradhan, who was also associated with the Maoists, was a history-sheeter and had been to jail several times. He was running a grocery shop at Besrazara and used to cut ‘Khuntkatti’ trees in the Banbalkera area.

According to the locals, thousands of people from all the nine ‘tolas’ of the Bambalkea region had gathered at the spot when the execution (termed as ‘Sendra’ in local language) took place in front of his mother and wife for violating the ‘Khuntkatti’ law.