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Sand mining related deaths in Jatpura Village, Garhwa district, Jharkhand, India


In one of multiple incidents in India because of sand mining in rivers [6], on 19th May 2017 there were reports that villagers in Jatpura, about 260 km from Jharkhand state capital Ranchi, were trying to stop workers from lifting sand from a river bed, and that there had been a clash with several deaths.[1] [7] According to police, the villagers were opposing the sand mining in Jatpura village in Garhwa. Sanjit Singh, who had been awarded the sand mining contract, allegedly opened fire at the villagers. In the firing, three members of a family were killed [2].

In retaliation, the angry villagers allegedly killed one of the contractor's workers by dragging him out of his house and beating him to death. They also set fire to at least 12 trucks, an SUV, motorcycle and two JCB machines [4].

The Telegraph [4] reported on May 21, 2017 that Garhwa deputy commissioner Neha Arora said the administration would initiate legal action against the contractors for using JCB machines to lift sand. "Two JCB machines were found on the spot yesterday, which the villagers had burnt. The district mining officer has been asked to initiate a legal action against the contractors," she added. On the 19th, around 30-40 residents of Jatpura village objected to contractors Dharamver Singh, Sanjeev Singh and their men collecting sand from the ghat using a JCB machine, which they claimed was leaving behind craters on the riverbed and making it flood-prone. A local source blamed the poor administration for the violence. Villagers have been protesting against use of JCB machines for long. But neither police, nor the district mining department have ever paid any heed. Had they been proactive, yesterday's clash could have been averted" [4].

As later reported in The Guardian by Michael Safi in December 2017 [3],  a group of four men from the same family went in Jatpura to the river on May 19, 2017 to confront the trucks mining.  “We were telling them to stop taking the sand,” Satish Yadav said, when the men with the trucks said, “who are you to stop us? If we want to lift sand, we will. Then they lifted their guns and fired.” Three members of this Yadav family were shot and killed, the surviving one managed to hide himself in a hole behind a nearby bush. He stayed in the hole, he says, “shivering in fear” for minutes until other villagers arrived at the river. “It is by sheer luck that I managed to escape death that day.”

In India, by some estimates, the amount of sand used for construction has tripled since 2000. Demand is expected to keep soaring. “Demand for sand outstrips that of any other raw material,” says Sumaira Abdulali, the convener of the Awaaz Foundation, an activist group that campaigns against illegal sand extraction. “Developers” are turning to more remote regions to source it, bringing them into conflict with smaller, usually vulnerable, communities. Groundwater shortages, flooding, and depletion of fish and other animal life often follow in the wake of unsustainable  sand mining, which can also weaken bridges and barrages along the path of heavily mined rivers, leading some to collapse. Unknown is the toll of the hundreds of conflicts erupting in small communities across the country between those who hold mining leases and local residents. “But we know the violence is extremely widespread,” Abdulali told The Guardian. In Jatpura, the sand miners arrived at the beginning of 2017, using excavators and industrial vacuums that could slurp vast quantities of sand from the riverbed.  Niranjan Yadav led the opposition to the project. The mining was veering close to a patch on the banks of the river which is a cremation ground. The dredging also made the river treacherous. Holes began to appear beneath the surface, sometimes 20ft deep. Villagers said that in April 2017, weeks before the Yadavs confronted the miners, a 12-year-old boy had died in a hole in the river. Resentment grew. “People who are in distant areas, rich people – like a mafia – are becoming richer,” says another Jatpura resident, Sudama Ram. “We feel very helpless. But we have our brothers with us in the village. The whole village is with us. We are fighting.”[3].

Satinder Singh was a manager from a nearby village who oversaw the sand mining in Jatpura and other sites. After the Yadav men were shot and the alleged gunmen fled, he remained close to the river “to keep watch”, according to Neha Arora, the deputy commissioner for Garwha. Officers found him beaten to death, and the house he had been renting in Jatpura razed. Police believe that he was attacked by a mob, “but it’s difficult to pinpoint who was involved,” Arora says. “Nobody is talking.”[3]. 

The shovel of one of the excavators is still half-buried in the sand, as if its owner fled in a hurry. Several other vehicles are strewn about the site, warped and gutted by fire. The mining licence for Jatpura was held by Dharambeer Singh, a small contractor from a nearby district. His lease permitted him to mine sand close to the cremation ground, but not to use heavy machinery.  “The [contractors] are target-driven, profit-driven,” Arora said.

The shooting in Jatpura triggered protests in Garwha town and was raised in the Jharkhand state assembly. Lifting sand is now permitted only from large rivers, which officials say can be mined more sustainably. The river by Jatpura, classified as medium-sized, is out of bounds, Arora said [3]. She is unsure why the use of heavy machinery, among other legal breaches, continued in Jatpura for months without officials being alerted. Corruption is also a consequence of the vast demand for sand: as well as environmental degradation, soaring sand prices encourage corruption and spark conflicts within villages [4].

The Superintendent of Police for Garwha, Priyadarshi Alok said two FIRs had been lodged by the contractors and the family members of the deceased respectively. [4]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Sand mining related deaths in Jatpura Village, Garhwa district, Jharkhand, India
State or province:Jharkhand
Location of conflict:Garhwa district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Sand mining by relatively small contractors using heavy machinery (JCBs) in local river called Banki in Piprighat, Garhwa district, Jharkhand leading to complaints by villagers.

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2017
Relevant government actors:District commissioner
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Awaaz Foundation

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Property damage/arson
Complaints because of desecration of cremation grounds by the river


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Noise pollution
Other Environmental impactsHeavy machinery in river beds leading to floods
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Sand mining has not stopped in the area, in the village of Japura it stopped. There are several court cases pending because of deaths.

Sources & Materials

(1) Four killed in eastern India as villagers protest sand mining. Thomson Reuters. Jatindra Dash

(4) The Telegraph, 21 May. FIRs lodged in sand mining row

- Villagers, contractors up the ante. Our Special Correspondent.

(7) Three of family gunned down in Garhwa district of Jharkhand.

(2) Three killed over sand mining dispute in Jharkhand. IANS. Ranchi.

(3). The Guardian, 30 Dec. 2017, Michael Safi. Villagers pay tragic price as Indian building boom drives demand for sand. Last May three men from one family were shot dead, victims of the violence that has spread as local people protest against miners

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(6) SANDRP. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. Illegal Sand Mining 2017: Rivers Continue To Lose Mindless Mining Battle (report on India as a whole). 19, 2017 by SANDRP

Meta information

Contributor:Joan Martinez-Alier and Brototi Roy
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3198



From The Telegraph. A sand mining truck on fire.