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Sonbhadra killings: Gond tribals farming disputed land since before Independence, says SIT

The investigation has found that the land was registered in the name of a cooperative society, Adarsh Krishi Sahkari Samiti. The land was later sold to friends and relatives of Umbha village head Yagyadutt in 2017.

Written by Manish Sahu | Lucknow | Updated: October 17, 2019 10:37:10 am
Sonbhadra Killings — Gond tribals farming disputed land before Independence: SIT The 143-bigha land was a source of dispute between the Gond tribals, and village head Yaghya Dutt and his aides. (File)

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Uttar Pradesh Police, which has been probing alleged irregularities in transfer and sale of around 145 bighas of land at Umbha village in Sonbhadra district following the shooting of 11 Gond tribals in July over the land dispute, has found that it had has been cultivated by the tribals since pre-Independence days.

“We have found that the disputed land has been in possession of the villagers since pre-Independence, and they have been using it for cultivation,” said a senior SIT officer.

“The Gond tribals received the land from the then king Raja Badhar before Independence. After the UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950, came into effect, the land was recorded in government documents as barren in 1951,” the officer said.

The investigation has found that the land was registered in the name of a cooperative society, Adarsh Krishi Sahkari Samiti. The land was later sold to friends and relatives of Umbha village head Yagyadutt in 2017. Yagyadutt is the main accused in the killing case.

Of the total 12 founding members of the society, the SIT could trace only one, Asha Mishra, while the rest are believed to have died over the years. She is the wife of retired IAS officer Prabhat Kumar Mishra, and the agency has recorded her statement at her residence in Delhi. The society was formed by then Bihar Congress MLC Maheshwar Prasad Narayan. A total of 1,300 bighas of land, including the disputed 145 bighas, was transferred to the society in 1955 by the government. At the time, five of the society member, all natives to Bihar, said they will cultivate the land and live in Sonbhadra.

“The agency is focusing mainly on the role of the three government departments — cooperatives, revenue and police. We have found that none of the society members ever stayed in Sonbhadra,” another officer said.

The agency is yet to trace the then tehsildar Krishna Malviya who issued an order for the transfer in 1955.

In 1989, the 145 bighas of the total land was transferred in the name of Asha Mishra and her daughter Vineeta Sharma.

Vineeta is the wife of retired IAS officer Bhanu Pratap Sharma. She allegedly claimed the ownership on the land on the basis of her grandmother Parvati Devi’s will, the SIT officer added. Vineeta’s statement has also been recorded.

In 2017, Asha and Vineeta sold their share of land to nine people, including Yagyadutt’s relatives.

“We are presently examining government documents and statements of the persons. Our investigation would soon be completed,” said SIT DIG J Ravinder Goud.

The SIT has recorded the statements of around 100 people, including three IAS officers. Former District Magistrate of Sonbhadra Ankit Kumar Agarwal was one of the three officers.

A total of 65 people have been arrested for allegedly killing 11 people and injuring 23 others on July 17. They had allegeldy gone to the land on tractors to take its possession.

The police on Monday filed a chargesheet against 51 people, including Yagyadutt and his relatives. They filed the chargesheet under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy). They also invoked the SC/ST Act and Arms Act.

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