sonebhadra massacre

Bereaved relatives of the persons killed in a mass murder in the Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh on July 17. Police have arrested 24 people in connection with the mass murder took place in the village. A case has been registered against 78 people in this connection including 50 unidentified. (IANS photo)

SONEBHADRA, Uttar Pradesh (IANS) — The bloody clashes that left 10 persons dead July 17 in Murtiya village in Sonebhadra now seem like a scene straight out of a Bollywood potboiler.

According to reports, the village head and the main accused in the massacre, Yagya Dutt, had brought about 200 men on 32 tractor trolleys to take possession of the disputed land.

After the tribals who were tilling the land, opposed his attempt to take possession of the land, Yagya Dutt's men fired at them for over half-an-hour.

"They just started firing. Once people started falling to the ground, they began hitting them with lathis. It was plain horror," said an eye witness.

The shootout continued for nearly half-an-hour.

The eye witness said: "We did not know they had come armed with guns. When they started firing, we ran here and there to save ourselves and kept calling the police which came an hour later."

The dispute between the villagers and the village chief pertains to a piece of 36 acre land. Initial investigation reveals that the tribals have tilled the land for generations, but they do not have its ownership titles, which they have been demanding for decades.

The main accused claimed he had bought the land 10 years ago from a prominent local family.

In 1955, a huge chunk of land, including the area covered by the village, was transferred to a cooperative society formed by a family, under a government scheme, the probe reveals.

In 1966, the scheme was abolished but the land was not returned to the government.

In 1989, the land was transferred to individuals in the same family, including the relatives of an IAS officer. This family sold a chunk of this land to the village chief in 2010.

"The tribals here have been appealing to government officers for decades. They raised objection to the sale. This land should rightfully belong to the local gram sabha (village assembly). But no one listened to them," said Chhote Lal, a BJP leader.

Twenty four people have been arrested so far in connection with the shootout.

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