Land, property disputes led to over 3K killings in U.P. from 2017 to 2021: NCRB data
Experts say land and property disputes have been the reason for conflicts historically but Deoria killings also point towards local officials’ failure to resolve the issue
Land and property disputes have been the major reasons for killings in Uttar Pradesh for the past many years. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, as many as 3,021 murders were committed in the state between 2017 and 2021 over disputes on these two issues.
The brutal killings of five members of a Brahmin family on Monday after a mob attacked their home to avenge the killing of a 50-year-old man of Yadav caste following an argument over a disputed piece of land at Fatehpur village in Deoria district is no exception.
The killings incited arson and violence amidst simmering tensions between the Brahmin and Yadav communities with several vehicles set on fire prompting authorities to rush police and provincial armed constabulary personnel to prevent further clashes.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath too had recognised this major flaw in the existing caste and land ownership in the state. He had called for disposing of land disputes in the state saying it was the main reason for majority of the crimes.
“Timely disposal of land-related disputes could end the several crimes that occur in the state. Delay in solving these disputes leads to major confrontation and then it turns into a criminal affair,” the CM had said while distributing laptops to lekhpals in Lucknow on July 17 earlier this year.
Experts too say land disputes have been major motive for killings in rural areas of the state like U.P. as well as Bihar. While scanning the figures of NCRB, the HT found that as many as 227 people killed over land and property disputes in 2021, 642 in 2020, 516 in 2019, 1,323 in 2018 and 313 in 2017 for same reasons.
Former U.P. DGP and sitting BJP Rajya Sabha MP Brij Lal said, “Although the land dispute has been one of the major reasons for murders and conflicts, it seems to be the negligence of local authorities of revenue and police departments in resolving the existing dispute between Brahmin and Yadav families that led to the killings in a Deoria village.” He further said the state government should take stern action against those responsible for not resolving the land dispute between the two families in Deoria village.
While explaining the caste and land ownership data of the state, Giri Institute of Development Studies, a national research institute of the ICSSR, ministry of education, GOI and government of UP, assistant professor Prashant Trivedi said upper castes like Kshatriyas and Brahmins have only 7 and 9 percent share in population respectively but their caste share in land ownership is 19 and 18 percent respectively.
He said the backward castes, lower backward castes and Dalits population share in the state is 15, 27 and 21 percent respectively and their land ownerships shares are 20, 18 and 9 percent which is much less as compared to their population and ownership percentage.
“This mismatch of population and land ownership percentage often leads to conflicts mainly in rural areas,” he added. “Besides, the land disputes also involve prestige and supremacy of families rather than just being an economical reason, leading to murders especially in rural Uttar Pradesh” he further said. Former IPS officer Umesh Kumar Singh said land disputes had been the reason for major incidents of crime historically.
On Deoria incident, he said it was basically the failure of local administration in resolving the long pending dispute between the two families. “It also points towards existing corruption among lower rung officials of revenue and police departments,” he added. He said the state government should act over it and take stern action against the officials responsible for not resolving the issue.
Repeated requests of the tribals of Umbha village in Sonbhadra district of eastern Uttar Pradesh fell on deaf ears for 64 years until 11 of them were killed in a dispute over possession of the same land on July 17, 2019. Tribal families had been farming this land since the pre-independence period.
They started raising objections in 1955, when 212 bighas of farmland in Umbha village was transferred to an agricultural society, said officials of the state police’s SIT who are privy to the investigation into the alleged fraud in land revenue records.
The state government had ordered the investigation after the July 17 killings. The tribals demanded the authorities to look into the records of Aadhar Varsh Khatauni—the first land revenue record prepared in 1951 after independence. The 1951 land record clearly says the land belonged to the gram sabha and it was in possession of tribal families who were farming it since the pre-independence (period). The irregularities began after the formation of Adarsh Krishi Sahkari Samiti, a farming society, in 1955 with 12 members.
The society itself was formed wrongfully as most of its members were neither locals nor engaged in farming. Moreover, the land transfer to the society was done by a tehsildar who was not authorised to do so. The tribals kept contesting their cases at different levels and continued to farm the land but the society land was later transferred to individuals by the then subdivisional magistrate (SDM) of Sonbhadra in 1989.
Then also, the tribal families had raised an objection to transfer of land (ownership) in private persons’ names and appealed to consider the facts mentioned in the 1951 land records. The same land was sold to local village pradhan Yagya Dutt in 2017 when it could not be freed from the possession of tribal families.
The tribal families again raised an objection but their application was rejected every time. They approached the then district magistrate but their claim was rejected for the last time on July 6, 2019 and the decision was conveyed to the tribal families by post on July 13, 2019. Only four days later, 11 tribal people were killed, allegedly in indiscriminate firing by Yagya Dutt and his aides in the dispute over possession of the same farming land.