Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Sunday blamed the Congress for the murder of 10 Adivasi farmers in Umbha village in the state’s Sonbhadra district who were shot dead by a village head from the Gujjar community last week over a land dispute. He claimed that the murders had exposed the Opposition’s “anti-Dalit, anti-tribal face”, NDTV reported.
“This incident is a very big political conspiracy,” alleged the chief minister. “The foundations were laid in 1955 when this land was transferred to a trust. In 1989, Congress government in UP transferred the land [back] to individual members.” He added that in 2017 the individuals sold the land back to the village head, who allegedly shot the farmers. “It is their ‘paap [sin]’ that has led to these villagers suffering.”
Adityanath accused Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi of shedding “crocodile tears” over the farmers’ deaths. Gandhi was detained on Friday while she was on her way to the district to meet the families of the shootout victims. She was allowed to meet two relatives of the victims the following day.
Adityanath said the state government had suspended police personnel involved in the incident. “Today [Sunday] I have ordered to provide compensation of Rs 18.5 lakh to the bereaved families of the deceased and Rs 2.5 lakh to the injured, from CM [Chief Minister] Relief Fund under Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe provisions,” ANI quoted Adityanath as saying. The chief minister also met the family members of those killed in the shootout.
In response, Priyanka Gandhi took a dig at Adityanath for his “late” visit to Sonbhadra. “I welcome respected chief minister’s Sonbhadra visit,” she tweeted. “Even though it is late, it is the government’s duty to stand with the victims. It is good to know your duties. Umbha has been waiting for justice for a long time. Expect that the victims of Umbha will get justice and their five demands will be fulfilled.”
Gandhi claimed the pressure applied by Congress workers had forced the Adityanath government to act. “When the Congress’s thousands of workers and people who love justice came in support of the victims of Umbha, only then the UP government realised that a serious incident has taken place,” she added. “The announcements made today should be implemented soon. The tribals must get the ownership of the land and most importantly, people of the village must be protected.”
Apart from Gandhi, a Trinamool Congress delegation that visited the state to meet the families was also initially stopped from meeting the relatives of the victims. The delegation was stopped at Varanasi airport on Saturday. They were later allowed to visit the BHU Trauma Centre and meet those injured in the incident.
Ten villagers were killed and at least 19 were injured in the shooting. At least 26 people, including village head Yaghya Dutt Bhuriya, have been arrested.