Mohiuddinpur, India- Angana Yadav shuddered as she recalled the morning when the God of Death visited and took the lives of her husband and 21 relatives all because of a felled mango tree.
It began as an ordinary morning on Jan. 2, she said, and she was going about her chores when she heard gunfire and saw flames leaping from her thatched roof.
She ran for the only door in the sprawling, 20room mud complex. It was bolted from the outside.
“I will never forget that day. I saw Yama (God of Death) dancing on top of me,” she said in an interview, weeping beside her burned mud house and repeating the name of her husband, Chedu. Broken walls and burned vessels surrounded her as she spoke of that ‘‘damnable morning’? When nearly half her family was murdered.
Three were shot and 18 others, including 11 children, were burned alive in a revenge massacre that resulted from a feud over the ownership of a mango tree.
It was one of the gruesome but commonplace horrors that wrack rural, feudal India. Petty quarrels they could be over a coconut, a well, a property line or an ancient caste grudge whose origins are long forgotten often lead to murder, burning and rape.
Mrs. Yadav’s husband and others died when the blazing roof crashed over a tiny storage room where they were hiding. She was hiding elsewhere.
“It is God’s fault to let this happen to us,” said Mrs. Yadav, an illiterate who does not know her birth date but thinks she is 30 or 35. She talks of: the loneliness of the long years ahead. She has cut her long hair brutally short in widow’s grief.
Nestled among flowering mustard fields, this tiny, Roadless village in northern Uttar Pradesh, about 280 miles southeast of the capital New Delhi. Most of the 300 villagers belong to one of the two major rival joint families, headed by Chandrika Yadav and Shivlal Yaday, brothers-in-law.
The mango tree in dispute had been considered joint property, but when a court awarded it to Shivlal’s family, Chandrika cut it down and took the wood home.
The blood feud began Aug. 21, 1983, with the murder of Chandrika’s son and his brother-in-law. Shivlal and nine others were arrested on murder charges but released on bail.
The feud simmered until Jan. 1. When Bhagwati Yadav, Chandrika’s son and a witness in the case against Shivlal, was killed, allegedly by Shivlal’s men.
Enraged by his son’s murder, Chandrika led an armed family gang to Shivlal’s house the next day, fatally -shot three people and set the house on fire, witnesses said. Chandrika and one of his sons have been arrested.
Police arrived three hours after the massacre to recover charred bodies.
“It was like an inferno. We couldn’t escape. The roof collapsed on us,” said Sohanlal Yadav, Shivlal’s brother.
No one tried to help or put out the fire, he said.
Five other houses belonging to Shivlal’s relatives were burned. Shivlal fled, but not before he threatened to massacre the remaining residents who did not save his family.
“My life does not mean anything to me now! But I will not let anyone else live here!’”’ he is said to have shouted before disappearing into the mustard fields.