A 45-year-old woman and her daughter, 20, died in a fire during an anti-encroachment drive at a village in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh on Monday.
The family alleged that cops set their hut ablaze when the women were inside. Local cops yesterday claimed that the two set themselves on fire, but the state police have now registered a murder case against 13 people. Those charged include the subdivisional magistrate, the station house officer and the bulldozer operator. They have also been charged with attempt to murder and voluntarily causing hurt.
The incident took place in the Madauli village in the Rura area of the district where the police, district administration and revenue officials had gone to remove encroachments from a "gram samaj" or government land, a police official said.
The villagers say the officials arrived in the morning with a bulldozer and they were not given any prior notice.
"They started the fire while people were still inside. We were just about able to escape. They broke our temple. Nobody did anything, not even the DM (District Magistrate). Everybody ran, nobody could save my mother," said Shivam Dixit.
Local police yesterday claimed that Pramila Dixit and her daughter Neha set themselves on fire. Station House Officer Dinesh Gautam and Pramila's husband, Gendan Lal, sustained burn injuries when they tried to save the victims, a police officer said.
"From what we are getting to know, a woman and her daughter locked themselves inside the hut and set it on fire, which has resulted in their death. We have reached the spot. All the officials concerned are also here. We will investigate and if there is any wrongdoing, we won't spare the guilty," said Superintendent of Police (SP) BBGTS Murthy.
"Whenever there is an anti-encroachment drive, a video is shot. We have asked for the video and will investigate it," Mr Murthy added.
Following the deaths, there's tension in the area between the villagers and the police. Villagers threw bricks at the police, who left the spot. The villagers are demanding a First Information Report or FIR against the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (Maitha) Gyaneshwar Prasad, Lekhpal Singh and others for the alleged murder.
Additional Director General of Police (Kanpur zone) Alok Singh, along with Divisional Commissioner Raj Shekhar, visited the village to pacify the crowd. Top officials say they will take action against anyone found responsible. Mr Shekhar has said that an inquiry has been ordered. "It is a very unfortunate incident. We are with the family. We will not spare those responsible," he said.
The Samajwadi Party blamed the "insensitive" administration for the "murders".
"Under the Yogi (Adityanath) government, Brahmin families are targeted, and such incidents are taking place selectively. Like Dalits and backwards, Brahmins are also a target of atrocities of the Yogi government," the opposition party said in a tweet in Hindi.