Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath today blamed the Congress for the shocking murder of 10 tribal farmers in a shootout over land in Sonbhadra district this week. The Chief Minister claimed the deaths were the result of a "very big political conspiracy" that had exposed the opposition's "anti-Dalit, anti-tribal face".
Yogi Adityanath's criticism also appeared to include Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, whom he accused of shedding "crocodile tears" over the farmers' deaths. The party leader had been detained by state police on Saturday while trying to meet the families of those killed. The stand-off between the two made headlines and was only resolved after some of the families were allowed to meet her.
"This incident is a very big political conspiracy. The foundations were laid in 1955 when this land was transferred to a trust. In 1989 a Congress government in UP transferred the land (back) to individual members," the Chief Minister said, alleging that the individual members then sold the land back to the village chief in 2017 in what amounted to a land grab attempt that exposed the party's "anti-Dalit, anti-forest dwellers, anti-tribal face".
"It is their 'paap (sin)' that has led to these villagers suffering," Yogi Adityanath.
Ten people were killed and over 24 injured on Wednesday when a village chief, Yagya Dutt, and 200 of his associates, fired on a group of farmers who refused to give up 36 acres of land they'd tilled for generations. The village chief claimed he bought the land 10 years ago from a prominent local family.
Yogi Adityanath had promised strict action against the accused and, in particular, Yagya Dutt, who he said was "an active member of the Samajwadi Party". He also said Yagya Dutt's brother was with the Bahujan Samaj Party.
He also announced enhanced compensation of Rs 18 lakh for the families of those killed and Rs 2.5 lakh for those injured. The state had previously ordered sums of Rs 5 lakh and Rs 50,000 respectively.
"I welcome the Chief Minister visiting Sonbhadra. Even if late, it is the duty of the government to meet the victims..." Ms Gandhi Vadra tweeted.
The incident triggered attacks on the BJP government in the state with the opposition accusing it of trying to protect the accused. The Congress, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, the Left and the Trinamool Congress hit out at the government on Saturday.
Till now, 24 people have been arrested for the mass murder. A total of 78 people have been charged, including Yagya Dutt and his brother.