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Could Sonbhadra Massacre Be Avoided? Dead IFS Officer's 5-yr-old Report Reveals Babu-Neta-Mafia Nexus

The senior officer of the Indian Forest service, who had prepared the report of shocking loot of more than 1 lakh hectare of forest land in Sonbhadra, had submitted his findings to the state government in 2014.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:July 25, 2019, 6:49 PM IST
Could Sonbhadra Massacre Be Avoided? Dead IFS Officer's 5-yr-old Report  Reveals Babu-Neta-Mafia Nexus
Screenshot of the incident.

Lucknow: The horrific massacre of poor tribals in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh, just might have been averted if a sensational report of a senior bureaucrat had been taken note of and corrective measures would have followed the probe report.

The senior officer of the Indian Forest service, who had prepared this report exposing shocking loot of more than 1 lakh hectare of forest land in Sonbhadra, had submitted his report to the state government in 2014, recommending a CBI probe.

While the report since then gathers dust, the officer concerned died in a road accident in July last year. His family, however, senses some foul play behind his death.

It was in early 2014 that the then chief forest conservator (land records and Bandobast) Mr AK Jain, had carried out a large scale investigation of usurped forest and tribal land in Sonbhadra.

What he exposed was a massive loot of forest and government land by a strong nexus of bureaucrats-politicians and mafia.

More than one lakh hectare of forest and government land has been illegally sold off to individuals, trust and societies. In many cases, the mentioned land had to be legally given to Dalits and tribals working on it for generations, but it was denied to them had registered in names of “outsiders”.

Ironically, even in Umbha village where 10 tribals were massacred, the land was first registered in the name of a society. Then some time in 1989 it was transferred to an individual, who in turn sold it off to a third party in 2017. Like Umbha, there are many more stories of greed, government apathy and loot with connivance of corrupt government officials.

Sources in state government tell that the 70-page report had recommended for a CBI probe, since corruption involved many top officers and influential people. The report had estimated that the revenue loss made to state exchequer by illegal taking away of forest land amounted to more than Rs 40,000 crore.

The report had further said that it’s not just loot of the precious jungle land but also a gross violation of the rights of marginalized Dalits and tribals. In many cases, the corrupt bureaucracy used Section 131 A of the Zamindari Abolition Act to illegally register the land in name of outsiders.

This was against the basic approach of the amendment. Which had cleared the way for ownership of such land to the tillers who had been occupying it on or before June 30, 1978.

In many cases, the outsiders were fraudulently shown as old occupants and large chunk of government and forest land was registered in their names or to the societies and trusts floated by them.

Apart from it, the law empowering the Dalits and tribals to own the land they had been tilling upon on or before December 13, 2015 was also misused. More than the original inhabitants — the tribals — it was the “outsiders” who were given the benefit.

Despite such startling revelations, the report was quietly buried and Jain was transferred to Agra. Since then, all through more than three years tenure of the Samajwadi party government and under Akhilesh Yadav’s chief minister-ship this report remained buried. A highly placed officer presently working with chief minsiter Yogi Adityanath told News18 that bureaucracy even kept the present government in dark about any such report.

It’s only now after Sonbhadra massacre, as the plight of tribal and loot of government land catches nation’s attention, that UP Chief Minister has taken a serious note of the high-level corruption and had promised stern action. He had already constituted a high-level probe team under Additional chief secretary revenue to look into all he land deals since Independence.

In the backdrop of these big decisions, the AK Jain report has again caught attention. Sources say chief minister has taken note of the report and has asked for its details. One can therefore only hope that investigations by an honest officer might see the light of the day, a year after his demise.

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