Lucknow: A village head and his supporters allegedly opened fire on a rival group in a land dispute in Sonbhadra, killing nine people, including three women, and leaving 19 injured on Wednesday, police said.
The land in the district's Ghorawal area earlier belonged to an IAS officer and he had sold it to village head Yagya Dutt, who wanted to take its possession, Uttar Pradesh DGP O P Singh told PTI.
When Dutt reached the spot with his henchmen in 10 to 12 tractors, local villagers tried to stop them from taking over the land, police said. Those accompanying him then showered a volley of bullets on the villagers, killing nine of them.
Police arrested Girijesh and Vimlesh, two nephews of the village head, and are trying to trace him as well. A house-to-house search is underway to nab those involved in the shootout, police said.
"We have also alerted the Madhya Pradesh police and, if needed, action against the IAS officer will also be initiated," the DGP said.
Sonbhadra is the second largest district in Uttar Pradesh and is the only one in the country sharing its boundary with four other states -- Madhya Pradesh, Chhattishgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar.
The land dispute had been festering for some time and police said they had initiated the process of attaching the property.
The incident, the bloodiest clash over land in recent years in the state, comes just a day before the Monsoon Session of the state assembly begins.
The opposition has been criticising the BJP government state over law and order in the state.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed the Director General of Police to personally monitor the case and ensure action against the culprits, a government spokesperson said.
The chief minister also directed that Commissioner, Mirzapur, and Additional Director General (Varanasi zone) to jointly investigate the cause of the clash and fix responsibility within 24 hours.
The condition of some of the 19 injured was said to be critical.The spokesperson said Adityanath has offered his condolences to the families of those killed.
Inspector General (Law and Order) Praveen Kumar said the clash took place in a remote spot under the Ghorawal police station area. The gram pradhan had purchased the 90 bighas of land two years back, he said.
A police team led by the Sonbhadra superintendent of police also reached the spot, Kumar said. Two men were arrested and the situation immediately brought under control, he said.