Sonbhadra Tribal Massacre : Deceptive Mainstream Media and Political Whataboutery

Dear Media, The main issue is the illegal land transfer and land grab that caused the slaughter of innocent Adivasis, not Yogi Vs Priyanka

What happened on 17th July 2019?

Village chief Yagya Dutt came on 32 tractor-trolley with around 200 henchmen to take over the land from the tribals of Village Umbha in Sonbhadra district of the eastern district of Uttar Pradesh. When the tribals resisted, what followed was nothing short of a bloody massacre. There was firing for 1 hour from Yagya Dutt and his men. When they were done with the firing, they beat up the villagers with Lathis to ensure they are dead. The incident resulted in the death of 10 people including 3 women and another 28 injured. Villagers called police stations, DM, SDM offices but to no avail. Police reached an hour later when the perpetrators were finished with their job and left a bloody scene behind them. The village is in mourning since then.

Media silence for the next two days!

Except for the local Hindi newspapers, none of the mainstream newspaper reported the incident. There was conspicuous media silence until Priyanka Gandhi reached Sonbhadra and was detained to prevent her from visiting the family of the deceased villagers.

Two questions…

Why was media sleeping till then? Was it not a newsworthy story until the entry of political bigwigs and chance of sensational drama in it.
What could have happened if Priyanka Gandhi had visited the village and assessed the situation? What is it that the Yogi government didn’t want the opposition to see?

We should give credit to Priyanka for at least bringing it to national attention otherwise this issue would have been hushed away in local print newspapers.

Now that the issue has created ripples in the political circles and newsrooms, mainstream Media is at its deceptive best presenting the story as a Yogi Vs Priyanka, Yogi Vs opposition spins, distracting from the main issue which was the illegal land transfer and land grab that caused the slaughter of innocent Adivasis.

Killings, arrests, torture and mass displacement of Adivasis is rampant in Central and East India. Sonbhadra is no exception. Media has maintained a very tacit silence regarding tribal issues and only focuses on them for tourism photo ops or anti-Maoist propaganda.  It doesn’t care about dead Adivasis or how to bring them justice, but how can it milk the sparring between political heavyweights for TRPs.

What were the ruling party and the opposition doing? 

The shamelessness doesn’t stop with media ignorance. It is systematic and runs deep. Since the news made national headlines, political parties have started their usual tug of war between Congress and BJP where congress blames the present administration for the Gunda raj and BJP blames Nehru, Gandhi and 70 years for the present state of affairs.

Yogi Adityanath who has already gained the reputation of running of Jungle raj in UP did not visit the Village until Monday, 4 days after the massacre. But he was quite prompt in stopping opposition leader Priyanka Gandhi from visiting the victim’s family and imposing section 144.

Everyday Yogi Adityanath is coming up with claims to absolve his government from the bloody massacre. He has swiftly blamed the Congress government of 1955 for the present situation. In the next 2 days, he also managed to claim that the accused is associated with SP and BSP, rounding of all the opposition in one corner.  And an unquestioning media lapped it up and made it headlines without any fact check. Since then the issue has been reduced to a political circus and blame game between the ruling BJP and opposition parties.

This was a great opportunity for the opposition to question the ruling party but they have only paid lip service to the incident on their twitter accounts. Priyanka Gandhi being the exception. This is especially inexcusable because the parliament is in session, but none of the MPs raised it in Parliament.

Meanwhile, there have been protests all across north India by civil society activists condemning this heinous crime.


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May 2024


  1. […] In the video, Kamya equates Hindus with Native Americans in the US, and questions why people are ready to support the latter but have only ‘hatred’ against the establishment of the Ram Mandir. She doesn’t mention the fact that the internationally recognized indigenous people of India are not Hindus, but rather, Adivasis or tribal communities. The Supreme Court also affirmed the Adivasis to be the ‘original inhabitants’ of India in 2011, and scholars of Indian history have argued that Adivasis are the descendants of the Indus Valley Civilisation, which preceded the internal migration of Aryan groups. In fact, caste-Hindu society has historically oppressed this group, seeing them as ‘uncivilised’ and ‘primitive’. While Kamya said that the establishment of the Ram Mandir was a victory for ‘colonized’ people, it is Adivasi lands and natural resources that have been colonized by the Indian state and capital for ages, leading to large scale displacement and violence.  […]


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