The land at Muramatu village, Palamu, Jharkhand, after the Mushahars were allegedly made to leave it. Photo: Photo: Abhik Bhattacharya and Arshad Raza Khan

By Abhik Bhattacharya and Arshad Raza Khan / The Wire

Ranchi: A land ownership dispute between members of the Dalit Mushahar community and members of the Muslim community in Murumatu village of Palamu district in Jharkhand has spiralled into an issue of communal tension, with locals blaming the involvement of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The dispute between the two marginalised communities had started some 18 months ago, but became public on August 29, 2022, when members of the village’s Muslim community allegedly evicted around 54 people of the Mushahar community from land which the Muslims claim they own.

According to Sadai Mushahar, a member of one of the evicted families, the 54 people evicted were to be transported to Chhatarpur, a nearby block village, where they were prevented from approaching the police. But the next day, they filed a first information report (FIR) at the Pandu police station against 12 named and 100 unnamed Muslim residents of Murumatu, accusing them of forcibly evicting the Mushahar community from land that the Mushahars claim as their own.

Based on this FIR, Rajesh Kumar Shah, the sub-divisional officer of Medininagar, and Surjit Kumar, the sub-divisional police officer of Bishrampur, met the Mushahar families who claimed that they had been evicted and promised them that they would be returned to their lost homes. As of September 8, officers of the Pandu police station have arrested seven people from Murumatu and have been searching for the rest.

Community claims

According to members of the Muslim community, the dispute between the two communities started when a few Mushahar families settled down on a vacant piece of land adjacent to Murumatu village, located near the highway and opposite the Karbala where Muharram processions gather.

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