Under fire after 10 people were killed and 28 injured in clashes and shooting over a land dispute in Ghorawal area of Sonbhadra district two days ago, the Uttar Pradesh government Friday suspended the area sub-divisional magistrate, police circle officer, SHO, beat sub-inspector and a constable for alleged laxity, and formed two inquiry committees with the direction to submit reports within 10 days.
In the state assembly, where the Opposition staged a noisy protest and held the government responsible for breakdown of law and order, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath promised action and justice to the victims, saying the guilty individuals will not be spared, no matter how important they are.
At a press conference, the Chief Minister, targeting the previous Congress governments, said the “neev” (foundation) of the July 17 incident was laid in 1955 when the tehsildar transferred gram sabha land illegally to the Adarsha Co-operative Society. In 1989, he said, this land was transferred from the Adarsha Society to individuals.
At both times, there were Congress governments in the state which, along with the administration, “worked to grab the rights of a big community in a wrong manner (ek bade samudaye ke haq ko harapne ka karya kiya)”.
Referring to the involvement of Bihar cadre officers in the matter, Adityanath said the land was transferred from Adarsha Society to some individuals in 1989: “Kuchch Bihar cadre se jude huay prashashanik adhikariyon ke naam bhi hain… un logon ke naam par is land ko kar diya gaya (There are names of some Bihar cadre administrative officers too in this. This land was transferred in their name).”
He said these individuals could not take possession of the land since tribals had been tilling the land, even before Independence. The tribals, he said, used to pay “lagaan”, first to the Adarsha Society and then to the individuals after transfer of the land.
In 2017, one of these individuals tried to sell this land to the gram pradhan of Umbha. Several revenue and criminal cases, filed by the gram pradhan and area residents, are still pending, he said, adding that the clash took place when attempts were made to vacate the tribals from the land — most victims are from the Scheduled Caste Gond community.
He said a committee headed by the the Additional Chief Secretary Revenue will look into the series of anomalies, from 1955 till date, and fix responsibility. The ADG, Varanasi zone has been asked to investigate the legal and criminal cases filed in relation to the land.
“Despite the dispute between the two factions in the past and apprehension of breach of peace, adequate action was not taken by the officers. The SDM, circle officer and inspector, all posted in Ghorawal, have been suspended on the basis of the report of the probe committee constituted on July 17. The beat sub-inspector and constable have also been suspended,” he said.
In the assembly, the Opposition rejected the CM’s claims. Congress MLA Aradhana Mishra said: “Chief Minister is trying to shift the blame of the failure of his government. The land was transferred in the name of the gram pradhan in 2017 and there has been tension since. Recently, orders were issued to take possession of the land. So what action was taken by the present government?”
BSP’s Lalji Verma demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister, saying the Sonbhadra incident shows he has lost administrative control. Leader of Opposition and SP leader Ram Govind Chaudhary said, “The state is burning. There are murders, dacoity, snatching, kidnapping, policemen are getting killed.”