One killed in police firing in eastern India over move to amend land laws
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By Jatindra Dash
BHUBANESWAR, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - One man was killed and at least 10 others were wounded in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand at the weekend, police said, when hundreds of indigenous people protesting against a government move to amend land laws clashed with police.
It was the third violent clash in recent months between police and villagers protesting either land acquisitions or the proposed changes to land laws in the state.
Police opened fire in Saiko in the district of Khunti after protesters blocked the road, assaulted police and took several policemen hostage, senior police officer M.S. Bhatia said.
The protesters, carrying traditional weapons including axes, bows and arrows, clashed with the police when they were unable to travel to a rally in the state capital Ranchi, he said.
"The police opened fire in self-defence," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The state government, keen to lure investment to one of the country's poorest states, has proposed amendments two colonial-era laws to allow it to buy protected tribal land to lease to investors for non-agricultural purposes.
Authorities say amendments to the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act were proposed after wide consultations, and that the changes will help develop much-needed infrastructure in the state.
Tribal organizations say changes to the laws will deprive them of their rights.
Conflicts over land in India have increased as the economy expands and more land is sought for industrial use and development projects.
At least two people were killed in August in Gola in Jharkhand, when villagers protesting the loss of their homes to a power plant clashed with police.
Four people were killed in the state's Hazaribag district earlier this month when police opened fire on villagers protesting a coal-mining site of state-run NTPC Ltd.
"Our fight against the government will continue," said Karma Oraon, convener of tribal rights group Jharkhand Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha, which organized the weekend rally in Ranchi.
More protests are planned for the coming weeks, including a statewide strike on Dec. 14, he said.
(Writing by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)
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