Yogi Sarkar more keen to protect the village head in Sonbhadra

Village Umbha has been turned into a garrison, the administration’s thrust is to protect the village head who along with henchmen opened fire and killed 10 people including three women on July 17

An injured person in the Sonebhadra shoot out.
An injured person in the Sonebhadra shoot out.

Biswajeet Banerjee

“The Uttar Pradesh administration is more keen to provide protection to the absconding Gram Pradhan at village Umbha, who opened fire at the villagers, than to the traumatised victims,” says activists who have been to the village, where 10 Gond Adivasis were gunned down on Wednesday by the Gram Pradhan and his henchmen.

As reported earlier, the Gram Pradhan and his men were trying to take over 100 acres of land which were being cultivated by the adivasis for several generations. But the land sharks are alleged to have manipulated Revenue records to claim ownership of the land, which was then shown as ‘sold’ to the Gram Pradhan.

Adivasis and activists allege that in Sonebhadra district, which has deep forest covers as well as mining activities, the powerful land mafia hold land much above the ceiling. Some land is also registered in the name of their pet animals, cats and dogs and trees, they allege.

On Wednesday the Gram Pradhan, as reported earlier, had arrived with 70 tractors and armed men to evict the tribals, who resisted and triggered the massacre.

While Umbha village has been turned into a PAC camp and the place is swarming with armed policemen, the administration allowed several political parties, NGOs and activists to visit the village on Wednesday and Thursday without any hinderance. But when the news was received about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s impending visit, the administration was directed to impose section 144. The notification is thus dated July 19. ( See image).

While neither the chief minister nor opposition leaders like Akhilesh Yadav or Mayawati have visited the village so far, local leaders of the two parties in Mirzapur did call on relatives of the victims.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who made a statement on the incident in the Assembly, is expected to visit the village though and of course prohibitory orders would have been lifted by then, scoffed political activists.

Lenin Raghuvanshi of People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) said that Sonebhadra administration implemented Section 144 CrPC on Friday afternoon. Before that the government had allowed political leaders, civil activists and journalists to visit the Umbha village.

“Left leaders had gone and met the family members of the victims. Even the Congress leader Ajau Kumar Lallu had visited the village on July 18 – a day after the massacre took place.”

Congress legislature party leader Ajay Kumar Lalu, who is camping in Chunar, said on phone, “I have heard that SP and BSP delegations reached Duddhi, a few kms from the village yesterday but the administration put all kinds of restrictions on Priyanka ji.”

Why did it take two days for the DM to realise that tension is brewing in the area ? If leaders of political parties were allowed to visit and meet family members on July 17 and 18 what made the DM to feel that law and order in that area could turn from bad to worse.

“We received intelligence inputs suggesting that anti-social element are active in the area. Visit of VIPs and political leaders could aggravate the situation further. So we decided to impose Section 144,” the DM explained.

A Congress delegation led by Pramod Tiwari met UP governor Ram Naik ay Raj Bhawan on Saturday afternoon to apprised him of the situation. “This is a dictatorial attitude of the government which is against the tenets of democracy. Priyanka Gandhi should be allowed to go and meet the victims,” Tiwari said.

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