Rights

UP: Ten People Shot Dead Over Land Dispute in Sonbhadra, 24 Arrested

Members of the Gond tribe were opposing the occupation of land by a village head, when they were fired upon 'indiscriminately'.

New Delhi: Ten people, including three women, were shot dead over a land dispute in Sonbhadra of Uttar Pradesh, while 23 others were also injured. Police said that 24 people have been arrested in connection with shootout.

The incident took place in Ubha village, when a village chief, identified as Yagya Dutt, and his supporters went to occupy a land that he had apparently purchased two years ago. The villagers did not allow him to do so, and he and his supporters opened fire at them. All the deceased belonged to the Gond tribe.

The condition of some of the injured is said to be stable, while a few with minor injuries have been discharged.

The attack seems premeditated, as Dutt came accompanied with several men and started firing indiscriminately. “Local villagers opposed. As a result, they (village chief’s men) opened fire causing death of nine villagers, including three women,” a senior police officer told NDTV. The toll later rose to ten, as one of the injured succumbed in a hospital.

“The pradhan (village) brought along many people in tractors and started ploughing his land. The villagers started opposing it. At this point, he and his men started firing indiscriminately at the villagers,” Salmantaj Patil, the police chief of Sonbhadra, said.

Police have also arrested Girijesh and Vimlesh, two nephews of the village head, and are trying to trace him as well. An FIR has been lodged against 61 people including 11 named.

The matter is likely to rock proceedings of the Uttar Pradesh assembly on Thursday. Samajwadi Party (SP) legislators are holding a sit-in at Chowdhury Charan Singh statue in assembly premises ahead of the start of the Monsoon session of the state assembly. With placards in hand, SP leaders alleged that the state government has failed to control law and order.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has directed the director general of police (DGP) to personally monitor the case and ensure action against the culprits, a government spokesperson said. Adityanath had also directed the Mirzapur commissioner and additional director general (Varanasi zone) to jointly investigate the cause of the clash and fix responsibility.

Background

The land in the district’s Ghorawal area earlier belonged to an IAS officer and he had sold it to village head Yagya Dutt, who wanted to take its possession, Uttar Pradesh DGP O.P. Singh said.

The land has caused tension in the past too, forcing the police to get involved. P.V. Ramasastry, the police officer in-charge of law and order in UP, told NDTV, “The village chief had alleged that the villagers had illegally occupied his land. The police had asked both sides to back off and the district administration had even decided to take over the land, those proceedings had been initiated,” he said.

(With PTI inputs)