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Bihar: Amid Crackdown, Sand Mafia Spreads Terror by Attacking Cops

Mohd. Imran Khan |
In the past 10 months, the henchmen of the sand mafia have attacked police and officials over 50 times.

Patna: Powerful and fearless illegal sand miners, engaged in one of Bihar's most lucrative businesses, are fomenting terror by attacking and killing police officials cracking down on them. 

The challenge faced by the Nitish Kumar-led government in controlling illegal sand mining is unusual. Illegal sand miners, locally known as the sand mafia, also target administrative officers and mining officials attempting to curb this lucrative, illicit business. 

In the past ten months, the henchmen of the sand mafia have attacked police and administrative officials over fifty times across the state, particularly in half a dozen districts famous for the highly demanded and priced 'pila sona'—bright yellow sand.

Similarly, the police and excise department officials are also soft targets for the illegal liquor mafia in the dry state.

In the latest incident on Tuesday (November 14), a police sub-inspector was crushed to death, and another police constable was seriously injured by the sand mafia in the Garehi police station area in Jamui district. This marks the second case of a police official being killed by the sand mafia in the state within two weeks.

According to district police officials, when a police team attempted to halt a sand-laden tractor engaged in illegal sand mining, the local sand mafia's henchmen deliberately struck down police sub-inspector Prabhat Ranjan. Ranjan succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital, and a police constable, seriously injured in the incident, is currently fighting for his life.

"A police team led by Ranjan rushed to a location on Tuesday morning upon receiving information about tractors carrying sand from illegal mining. When the tractor driver ignored the police signal to stop, he also ran them over, resulting in Ranjan's death," a district police official stated.

The Jamui Superintendent of Police stated that special police teams were conducting raids to arrest those involved in the crime, including the driver, and had confiscated the tractor.

On November 1, the sand mafia killed a home guard constable under the Barem police station in Aurangabad district. While pursuing a tractor carrying illegal sand, the police team's attempt to stop it resulted in the tractor crushing the home guard constable, who later succumbed to his injuries.

As reported in local Hindi dailies, police teams were attacked by illegal sand miners in Nawada, Bhojpur, Patna, Nalanda, Saran, Aurangabad, Rohtas, and Gaya districts this year. Last month, a police team faced an attack and gunfire from the sand mafia near Amnabad under the Bihta police station in Patna. No police officials were injured, but it served as a warning against taking action.

Earlier this year, the sand mafia attacked and injured police officials in Gaya, Rohtas, Patna, and Bhojpur.

A senior official from the Bihar police headquarters, speaking on condition of anonymity, informed Newsclick that the sand mafia possesses power, money, and sophisticated arms, enabling them to control riverine belts for illegal sand mining—an organised crime that has flourished over the years due to its profitability.

An investigation by this reporter last year revealed that miners transport sand from nearby and far-off locations at night, allegedly paying hefty bribes per truck to the police. For instance, small miners at Pahleja Ghat disclosed paying Rs 8-9 lakh daily at the Sonepur Police Station in Saran, allowing over 150 trucks to pass.

Illegal sand mining persists along rivers, particularly in Sone, Kiul Falgu, Chanan, Morhar, Punpun, and Ganga, owing to alleged collusion between miners, local politicians, criminals, administrative officials, and the police. Hundreds of boats, trucks, tractors, dumpers, and JCBs can be seen extracting and loading sand along the banks of various rivers.

Illegal sand is openly sold in broad daylight in markets in Patna and other places, allegedly with the full knowledge of police and administrative officials. Trucks and tractors loaded with sand are visibly parked at multiple locations in the state capital and outskirts.

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