Ranchi under lockdown after ED searches Hemant Soren’s house
Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, witnessed a tense situation on Tuesday as prohibitory orders were clamped in key areas following the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) search at the Delhi residence of Chief Minister Hemant Soren. The ED team camped at Soren’s house for almost 13 hours on Monday in connection with a money laundering case linked to an alleged land fraud in Jharkhand. The agency seized Rs 36 lakh, a BMW car and some incriminating documents from Soren’s residence, sources said.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the ruling party in the state, condemned the ED action and called it a political vendetta by the BJP-led central government. The party also alleged that the ED officials arrived at Soren’s house without any prior notice and with hundreds of armed soldiers, which was a violation of the protocol and an insult to the dignity of the chief minister. The party also claimed that Soren was not absconding, as alleged by the BJP, but was busy with official work and would cooperate with the ED investigation.
The JMM supporters staged protests in various parts of Ranchi, blocking roads and burning tyres. They also raised slogans against the central government and the ED. The police had to use tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters, who also pelted stones at them. Several people were injured in the clashes, and some vehicles were damaged. The district administration imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC in Ranchi wards 1-5 and Serampore’s ward 24 to prevent any further violence. Internet services were also suspended in some parts of the city till 10 pm on Tuesday.
Hemant Soren to face ED on Wednesday in Ranchi
According to sources, Soren has informed the ED that he is ready to depose before them on Wednesday at his Ranchi residence around 1 pm. The ED had issued a fresh summons to Soren asking him to confirm his availability for questioning on either January 29 or January 31. The ED team decided to question him on Monday in the capital after getting to know that he was in the city for legal consultations.
The ED is probing a case of alleged money laundering of hundreds of crores involving Soren and his family members. The case is based on a CBI FIR registered in 2018, which alleged that Soren and others had acquired land worth Rs 500 crore in Ranchi and other places through fraudulent means. The CBI had also accused Soren of receiving kickbacks from a mining company in exchange for granting mining leases when he was the deputy chief minister in 2013.
The ED had questioned Soren in Ranchi earlier this month after he had avoided eight summonses. The agency had also attached properties worth Rs 130 crore belonging to Soren and his relatives in December last year.
BJP accuses Hemant Soren of running away from law
The BJP, the main opposition party in Jharkhand, accused Soren of running away from the law and hiding from the ED. The party also claimed that Soren had cancelled his chartered flight to Ranchi on Monday evening and switched off his phone. The party also alleged that Soren was trying to influence the witnesses and tamper with the evidence in the case.
BJP state president Babulal Marandi said that Soren had gone underground due to fear of the ED and that he had lost the moral right to continue as the chief minister. He also demanded that Soren should resign from his post and face the law like a common citizen.
BJP leader and former chief minister Raghubar Das said that Soren had betrayed the trust of the people of Jharkhand and that he was involved in massive corruption. He also said that the ED action was not politically motivated, but based on evidence and facts.