Fifteen people have been arrested in connection with the murder of seven villagers in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district earlier this month, PTI reported on Monday. The villagers were allegedly decapitated on January 19, and differences over the Pathalgadi movement are suspected to be the reason.

Those arrested have been charged with murder and rioting, among others. They were on Monday remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody.

Nine people had allegedly ransacked a few houses in the village on January 16, after which a meeting was convened on January 19 and all nine were called for it. “Two persons ran away during the meeting,” West Singhbhum Superintendent of Police Indrajit Mahata had said. “The villagers caught seven and killed them.”

Jharkhand Director General of Police KN Choubey had said that the Pathalgadi movement may have caused polarisation in the village, but investigation was needed to establish whether there was a link with the murders. The deceased were anti-Pathalgadi activists, while their attackers were supporters of the movement, but it may be a coincidence. “We will be able to speak about the conclusive Pathalgadi link only after further investigation,” Mahata had said.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has ordered an inquiry by a special investigation team into the murder of the seven people.

The decades-old Pathalgadi movement, which seeks self-rule for gram sabhas, resurfaced in 2017, when stone monoliths engraved with provisions of the Indian Constitution began to be installed in the villages of Khunti. The engravings highlighted the special autonomy granted to Adivasi areas under the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

In November, had reported that more than 10,000 people in Khunti district were facing sedition charges for erecting the Pathalgadi monoliths. However, after the Hemant Soren government came to power in December, it dropped all cases filed against supporters of the Pathalgadi movement in 2017 and 2018.