Seven villagers have been killed in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand for allegedly opposing Pathalgarhi, the police said on Wednesday. Inspector General of Police (Operation) Saket Kumar Singh said that the police reached Burugulikera village on Tuesday night after getting information about seven villagers being killed and their bodies dumped in a forest.

A panchayat representative was among those killed, he said.

After an overnight search operation, the bodies of the seven villagers were recovered from a forest, four kilometres from the village, he said.

There was a meeting over ‘Pathalgarhi’ movement at the village on Tuesday when a dispute had arisen, West Singhbhum Superintendent of Police Indrajit Mahata said.

Following the development, ‘Pathalgarhi’ supporters had kidnapped the seven villagers, he said. The supporters of Pathaligarhi had allegedly perpetrated the crime in which lathis (sticks) and axes were used, the police officer said.

Expressing grief over the incident, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said, “Law is above all and the guilty will not be spared. The police is investigating the matter.”

A high-level meeting will be convened to prevent recurrence of such an incident, he assured.

Pathalgarhi means carving a stone. It is an ancient practice in the tribal communities of Jharkhand. The stones signify self-rule by the local village panchayat, declaring the village as sovereign territory and prohibiting the entry of outsiders into the village.