Congress demands judicial inquiry into Sonbhadra clash

Youth Congress leaders speaking to Umbha residents in Sonbhadra district of UP

Lucknow: The Congress on Thursday demanded that a judicial inquiry be conducted by a Supreme Court judge into the killing of 10 people, including three women, from the Gond tribe over a land dispute in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh.

CLP leader Ajay Singh 'Lallu' and other party leaders visited the crime scene, and said Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will soon visit the Ghorawal area to meet the victims' families.

Singh said the state government cannot shun its responsibility by describing the incident as a fall out of a land dispute. He said the tribal people had been demanding redressal of their problems but the chief minister allegedly overlooked it.

A village head and his supporters allegedly opened fire on a rival group on Wednesday over a land dispute and killed 10 people. Several others were injured in the shootout, the bloodiest clash over land in recent years in the state.

The disputed land belonged to an IAS officer and he had sold it to the village head, Yagya Dutt, who wanted to take its possession, Director General of Police O P Singh said.

Mineral-rich Sonbhadra, about 400 km from the state capital Lucknow, is the second-largest district in UP and the only one in the country sharing its boundary with four other states -- Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar.

On Thursday, the Congress demanded an ex-gratia of Rs 25 lakh each to the families of the dead and Rs 15 to those injured along with land 'pattas'.

"The delegation found that when the land mafia were firing at the tribals, calls were made on the police helpline but they arrived late as part of a conspiracy," Singh alleged.

The incident was raised in the state legislative council on Thursday.

The opposition Samajwadi Party criticised the ruling BJP over the law and order situation in the state and forced adjournment of the upper house without any business.