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Exploitation, Greed, Govt Apathy: From 1947 to 2019, the Bone-chilling Chronicles of Sonbhadra Massacre

The exploitation continued till 2017, when in post-demolition era the land owner and his family suddenly decided to sell off the land to the same village pradhan, who was managing things for him on the ground.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:July 20, 2019, 11:42 PM IST
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Exploitation, Greed, Govt Apathy: From 1947 to 2019, the Bone-chilling Chronicles of Sonbhadra Massacre
Police inspect houses in Sonbhadra's Umbha village after shootout

It was in 1955 when the story of exploitation began — the subjugated mostly being poor and illiterate tribals. But instead of ending with time, the oppression only intensified as government officers either themselves became the usurper of land or else turned a blind eye towards the plight of innocent villagers.

It's the government and bureaucratic apathy over the decades that has now led to 'blood bath' in Umbha village of Sonbhadra. It would be wrong to call it a clash between the two sides of the villagers. It was an open, one-sided assault on poor tribals by goons, who got support from those on seats of power.

It was this collusion of land mafia and people in power that led to murder of 10 villagers and left many injured.

On Friday, on the floor of Vidhan Sabha when UP CM Yogi Adityanath tried to turn tables on his political opponents, specially holding Congress governments in the past of being responsible for writing the script of land dispute, that led to mass massacre, he was probably not aware of wrong doings committed during his own government.

Two key developments related to this case actually happened over the past two years

The Facts

1. It was in October 2017 that the disputed agricultural land, measuring around 630 bighas, was put into an agreement to be transferred in the name of local village pradhan. IAS Prabhat Mishra, his wife, daughter and son-in-law had executed this agreement. The move was opposed by villagers but it still needs to be answered why corrective measures weren't taken by the administration.

2. More than a year later, in February 2019, despite objections from the tribal farmers, who had been ploughing on this land for several generations, the land was officially registered in name of the village pradhan. An exercise called 'dakhil-kharij' was executed. It means the land was officially registered in the name of the village pradhan on revenue records.

This despite the fact that rule says 'dakhil-kharij' takes place only if no objections are raised to the earlier executed land deal.

3. Ironically, in the year before the land was officially registered in name of village pradhan, that is in 2018, the protesting villagers were even booked under the 'Goonda Act'.

Sources tell CNN News18 that in June 2018, five people from Gond tribe were booked under Goonda Act by Sonbhadra police. These were the men who were opposing the land deal between IAS and the village pradhan. The question is why was the case of farmers not heard.

These details were not shared by the state government as the chief minister briefed Vidhan Sabha on Friday.

So on the day when UP CM tried to take a strong position, declaring series of action against officers on the ground and constituting two high-level probe teams, the story that emerges is more about political-bureaucratic and police apathy through successive governments and not just under rule of any one particular party.

Though it is now subject of probe as to how this land got registered in the name of 'Adarsh Society' almost 66 years ago, and what all transpired from there on, here's a brief of the history of land in dispute:

Before Independence and till 1955, this land belonged to a princely estate. Locals say their ancestors had cultivating rights from 'Raja of Badhal'. As per understanding a local princely ruler had way back in pre-Independence era had gifted this land to 'Raja of Badhal'. The Raja then in turn kept his men as farmers on this land. Most of them being tribals and locals.

In early 1950s, when demands for land reforms and zamindari abolition gained pace, this huge piece of agricultural and forest land was transferred to a society called Adarsh Cooperative Society by the order of tehsildar of Robertsganj, dated December 17, 1955.

When farmers and families at that point in time got to know of this transfer of title-ship, concerns were raised, but then they were convinced by this reasoning that 'a society land can't be sold off, and hence, their sowing and cultivation rights could not be compromised'.

Things worked in this manner till 1989 when the land in question was transferred to individual holding from that of a society. It was registered in the name of then serving IAS officer, his wife and family members.

Eyebrows were raised once again at this land deal, but nothing happened. Farmers claim that since early 90's new owners of the land through the dominant people of the village, started extorting Rs 300-400 per bigha against their cultivation rights.

This exploitation continued till 2017, when in post-demonetisation era the land-owner bureaucrat and his family suddenly decided to sell off this land to the same village pradhan, who was managing things for him on the ground.

It was this decision which set the plot for the deadly day of July 16 this year when 10 villagers were massacred. Ironically, this period coincidences with the BJP rule in the state.

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