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Friday 5 June 2020

Sonbhadra funerals see villagers-officials standoff the day after

A day after the shootout over a piece of land in Sonbhadra district that killed 10 people, the villagers there were locked in a standoff.

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Sonbhadra/Lucknow: A day after the shootout over a piece of land in Sonbhadra district that killed 10 people, the villagers there were locked in a standoff for several hours with the local administration — over the land to bury their dead.

The standoff in Sonbhadra district continued till late on Thursday evening as police conducted more raids, finally nabbing a village headman who is the main accused in the violence. Altogether, 26 people have been arrested.

Apart from the 10 killed, 18 others were injured on Wednesday when they resisted an attempt by village pradhan Yagya Dutt and his supporters to take possession of the 90 bighas of disputed land in the district’s Ghorawal area.

The men accompanying the village head had allegedly opened fire, killing nine people on the spot.

On Thursday, as the Opposition created uproar in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council over the deaths and the State’s scheduled tribes commission decided to send a team to the spot, there was gloom in the nondescript Ubha village.

Also on was a dispute between the villagers and the administration over the burial of the bodies.

The villagers in Sonbhadra district, belonging to the Gond tribe, usually cremate those who die of old age. Those who die young or unnatural deaths were often buried, they said.

The villagers were adamant that the bodies should be buried at the spot where the shootout took place, which is on the disputed piece of land itself.

But the administration wanted the last rites only at places where the villagers traditionally perform them.

The matter was resolved late in the evening when officials managed to persuade the villagers to give up their demand.

Villager Ramraj said three generations of his family had farmed on the land and alleged there had been illegal attempts to evict them before.

The land earlier belonged to an IAS officer and he had sold it to Yagya Dutt, who wanted to take possession, Uttar Pradesh DGP OP Singh had earlier said.

The police said they had initiated proceedings some time back for attachment of that piece of land.

Shocked villagers fumbled for words when a journalist visited the Ubha on Thursday. The villagers were demanding that no one involved in the firing should escape punishment. Nandlal said his wife Basmati (45) had died in the firing. Another villager, Rambali, lost his brother and sister-in-law.

The FIR registered by the police names 11 assailants and mentions that 50 others were involved in the shootout. Police have arrested Girijesh and Vimlesh, two nephews of the village head hours after the violence. The headman was arrested on Thursday. In Lucknow, proceedings of the State Legislative Council were stalled by a determined opposition which forced repeated adjournments during the Question and Zero hours.

The House was adjourned for the day when opposition member trooped into the Well, shouting anti-government slogans and brandishing placards.

Samajwadi Party legislators also sat on a dharna before the statue of former prime minister Charan Singh in the Vidhan Bhawan premises, ahead of the start of the Monsoon Session of the legislature. SP leaders claimed the State’s BJP government has failed to maintain law and order.

The Uttar Pradesh Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission on Thursday accused local officials of negligence’ in tackling the land dispute which triggered the firing. The commission is sending a two-member team to the village.

Deputy Chairman Maniram Kaul and member Ramsewak Kharwar would visit the scene of the crime, meet the tribals there and submit a report to chairman Brij Lal, a press statement said. The commission directed the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police to deploy police force in the area and ensure security for the villagers.

A Congress delegation on Thursday visited the village and demanded a judicial inquiry by a Supreme Court judge. Leader of the Congress Legislature Party Ajay Kumar Lallu, who led the delegation, said he had sent his report to Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. He said Gandhi was likely to visit the village and meet the victims.

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