On July 17, 2019, over 300 musclemen, armed with licensed guns, canes and country-made weapons, reached Umbha village, about 70 kilometres from the district headquarters of Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh, to take possession of 36 acres of land that was bought by the Pradhan (village panchayat head), Yagya Dutt, a Gurjar, from Adarsh Cooperative Society Limited in 2017. Dutt also accompanied his henchmen to acquire the land. When the Gond tribals living in the area protested, the Gurjars opened fire, killing 10 tribals, including three women, and injuring 28. The massacre was reportedly planned as over two dozen armed people were specially brought in from Jharkhand and Bihar to take possession of the land. The investigation carried out by the state government also found the police complicit in the crime as they did not take timely action despite knowing about Dutt's plan to attack the tribals. The village residents told Land Conflict Watch that Dutt had been trying to take control over the land for the last two years. According to the Gonds, they have been living and cultivating on the land since pre-Independence days, although they do not have land titles to give them ownership rights. Dutt had settled in the village after migrating from western Uttar Pradesh some four decades ago. In the past two years, the pradhan has made various attempts, including threats, to acquire the land. All 10 people who were killed, except for one, were young and breadwinners of their families. Their kin will now have to struggle every day, Ramraj Gond, who is representing the tribals in the court case against the accused, told Land Conflict Watch. Local leader Hariram Chero from Dundi Assembly had written to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on January 14, 2019, stating that the land mafia in the area under the jurisdiction of the Ghorawal police station was planning to forcibly seize the land of the tribal people there. The name of Prabhat Mishra, Bihar cadre's former IAS officer and former district magistrate of Mirzapur, has also come up in the case as the land was previously owned and purchased by him at a cheap price. According to Chote Lal Karwar, a Member of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Party, on December 17, 1955, then tehsildar Robert Sangaz sold 648 acres of land to Adarsh Cooperative Society. Even after the society's term expired in 1966, the land continued to be registered under its name. In 1989, Mishra, who was then the district magistrate of the region, got the land registered under the names of his family members. Meanwhile, the state government has formed a special team to investigate the matter after a 1,000-page report was submitted to it by a committee of IAS officers formed by the chief secretary of the state. The government has also offered four acres of land to the families of the deceased, who have accepted the compensation. They made an additional demand for a school to be constructed in the village, which the state agreed.
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