Mark Twain once said, ‘buy land, they're not making it anymore.’ From that time to present day, land is the ultimate asset, the ultimate source of power. At heart of the Sonbhadra’s July 6 brute killings lies a land deal. The transaction between an ex-IAS officer’s wife, daughter and a village head and 10 others in 2017 sowed the seeds of the present-day tension. The possession of 145 bigha land in Sonbhadra led to the July 6 killings. To understand the present-day conflict, we must know the original dispute that started somewhere in 1950s.
According to an Indian Express report, around 600 bigha land in Sonbhadra was declared infertile in revenue records following the UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950. The land was owned by a local zamindar. Later, these 600 bighas were recorded as gram sabha land in official papers. Soon after that, local families started tilling the land. Most of the tillers were from Gond community. In 1955, around 460 bigha land was transferred by the then tehsildar to a society called Adarsh Sahkari Samiti, the Indian Express reported.
The president of this society a Bihar cadre IAS officer. In 1989, after his death, around 140 bigha land with the society was transferred to his wife and daughter. In 2017, the wife and daughter sold that land to the gram pradhan Yagya Dutt and 10 others for Rs 2 crore. Dutt was trying to take the possession of the land for past two years. While Dutt entered the scenario in 2017, the Gonds, the original tillers of the land have been protesting the dealing since 50s. They had also filed a case saying that the 2017 deal was illegal. Numerous FIRs and counter-FIRs have been filed by Dutt camp and the Gonds. On July 6, Dutt came on the site with 300 men in 32 tractor trolleys. Dutt told his men to forcibly till the land. When the Gonds and other locals protested, altercation broke out. In that commotion, Yagya Dutt and his men allegedly gunned down 10 people on the spot. 25 others were also injured during the dispute.
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) on Friday issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government, asking it to submit a report on the killing of 10 tribal farmers. Tribals have tilled the land for generations and have been demanding titles for it. Attempts had been made to evict them earlier too, an NCST official said.