Members of an indigenous tribe in eastern lndia killed a man over allegations he had cut down “sacred” trees to build a house.
About 150 members of the Bhokta tribe dragged Sanju Pradhan, 34, from his home in Jharkhand state and assaulted him with sticks and bricks.
His body was set ablaze, said police who recovered his charred corpse from near a market hours after the attack occurred on Tuesday.
The tribe said Pradhan, a member of India’s Dalit caste, had secretly cut the sal trees in October and used the timber in a remote village in Simdega district.
Almost all tribes, including Bokhtas, in Jharkhand state revere sal as gods and the tree is widely worshipped in the largely animistic society.
“The villagers were angry with Pradhan, who had cut four sal trees in October to build a house,” Rameshwar More, station house officer at Kolebira police station, told The National.
“He belonged to the same village but was a scheduled caste. The villagers had called for a meeting to resolve the issue but Pradhan didn’t attend it further angering the villagers … the tribe beat him up with bricks and sticks, and killed him.”
No arrests have been made yet but police have registered a case against 13 people.
“There were 150 people involved. We are yet to make any arrests but have filed a case against 13 people,” Mr More said.
“We are investigating the matter and identifying those involved.”
Scores of Indian tribes live in mineral-rich but underdeveloped parts of eastern and central India that are dominated by the indigenous people who largely remain untouched by modern life.
Much of the region is home to a decades-long left wing Maoist armed insurgency, which says it is defending the rights of the poor and tribes from big corporations.
Sal, also known for its medical properties, is an important part of tribal social and religious traditions.
Under Indian law, indigenous tribes in the country are allowed to live in forests and use them for sustenance and for cultural reasons.