New Delhi: The national capital on Thursday witnessed thousands of farmers from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh gathering to oppose the “forcible” acquisition of their land by the state government. The protests happened in the backdrop of three farmers being killed in police firing during one of the earlier protests this month in a village near Aligarh.
The mood in Delhi today was intense as thousands of farmers walked down the roads near the Parliament House shouting slogans and waving flags of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which was leading the protests. Leaders from various parties addressed the gathering of farmers near the Jantar Mantar where the peasants filled the air with anti-government slogans.
Manbir Sindhu, an agriculturist whose 10 bighas of land was acquired by the state government for the Yamuna Expressway project said, “We want the right price for our lands. We want justice from the government.” Another farmer, Ved Pal Singh, said, “We would be on the streets without our land. Either the government needs to pay the justified price or return our land.”
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD)’s Anil Chaudhary, who represents Hathras constituency in the state assembly, said, “There are villages which are almost 60 km away from the expressway. There are almost 5-6 parganas, which will cease to exist because all their villages will become a part of this industrial development.”
RLD president Ajit Singh in an interview with Mint said, “We have proposed a new bill in the Parliament to demarcate government’s role in land acquisition for specified purposes. If it acquires land for a specific purpose and if in five years that purpose is not done, the land would be returned to farmers.”
Ironically, Brajesh Pathak, MP, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, said, “Mayawati’s stand is very clear. She believes that the Land Acquisition Act needs amendment. She has also extended support to the rally that happened today.”
With the rally being led by RLD, which has major stakes in Uttar Pradesh, the politics over farmers reaches a new level with today’s rally. The rally saw participation from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)), Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)), Communist Party of India (CPI), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
Congress supported the rally and its spokesperson Manish Tewari said, “We sympathise with the farmers. But the issue is extensive and not limited to Uttar Pradesh alone.”
Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday following which the Prime Minister said that his government would take up amending of the bill about land acquisition in the next session of Parliament.
Large number of lands are being acquired under the Land Acquisition Act in Uttar Pradesh for constructing the 165.4 kilometres long Yamuna Expressway. This expressway is proposed to link Agra with Greater Noida. The Land Acquisition Act of 1894 allows the Government of India to acquire any land in the country for “public purposes”.
PTI contributed to this story.