A large number of citizens along with Bhim Army workers and social activists staged a demonstration under the banner of Ambedkar Mahasabha at Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue in Hazratganj on Wednesday, July 24, against the killings of ten Gond tribals in the Sonbhadra district last week.
The protesting citizens pointed out that some anti-social elements belonging to Hindutva outfits are killing dalits and adivasis in the name of 'land' on which they had been living for generations. The protesters chanted slogans such as "Daliton par hamla nahi sahenge (we won’t tolerate any attack on dalits)” and demanded to allot the land to the Gond tribals immediately. A memorandum was also handed over to the District Magistrate addressed to the President of India and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister.
Speaking to NewsClick, IPS officer, ex-IG (UP police) SR Darapuri who took part in the protest said, "The horrific massacre of poor tribals in Sonbhadra has exposed that a strong nexus of bureaucrats-politicians and mafia have been involved in the massive loot of forest and government land. The Sonbhadra incident is a serious issue which involves tribal rights over lands. These tribals have been farming in these lands for decades but were not given land titles, which should have been given under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) long back. Unfortunately, neither the Samajwadi Party (SP) or Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government took note of the rights of the tribals. We have mentioned in our memorandum that UP government should make a land commission which should investigate the area of land under Gram Samaj, barren lands, forest lands as well as those which are in illegal possession. After identifying the lands, it should be distributed among landless people. The government should implement FRA honestly."
Also read: Landlord Savagery in Sonbhadra on Tribal Cultivators
Ram Chandra Patel, main organiser of the protest and chairman of Lucknow-based organisation Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj Smriti Manch told NewsClick, "Ten adivasis were killed brutally over the land dispute. The land should be handed over to them. Also a compensation of Rs 50 lakh each and government jobs to the affected families must be given by the government. The ruling BJP government should review all the reports over such nexus of land and establish a commission involving political leaders and social activists to look after government lands. Five acre of land should also given to poor landless dalits so that they can build their house."
He added, "There should be a special court in the state to hear the problems of dalit and adivasis because atrocities against dalits increasing everyday. The special court will ensure that justice is delivered within a certain time period. Otherwise we will organise massive protests in the country. Meanwhile, it is not only a matter of Sonbhadra, but various land-mafias have occupied the lands of dalits in many parts of Uttar Pradesh which should be released."
Earlier, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra along with her supporters and TMC leaders, had set up camp on the road after they were stopped from visiting the victims’ families. Later Gandhi was detained and stopped from going to Sonbhadra.
On July 17, a group of around 200 men on 32 tractor-trolleys armed with stout sticks, spears and rifles arrived at Ubhha village in Sonbhadra district led by village sarpanch Yagyadutt Gurjar and opened fire on tribals where 10 people were killed and 28 were injured.