Farmers, police clash in Maharashtra over land acquisition for airport
Mumbai: At least 25 persons including 12 policemen and eight protestors were injured on Thursday when a farmers’ protest against land acquisition for a proposed defence airport turned violent at village Nevali in Thane district on the outskirts of Mumbai. The protestors torched six police vehicles and blocked Thane-Badlapur highway even as the state government deployed two companies of Special Reserve Police and Riot Control Police to control the situation.
The protestors were injured when the police fired pellet guns after policemen including an assistant commissioner were attacked with stones, Thane police commissioner Parambir Singh told reporters. He said the situation was under control but added that action would be taken against “mischief mongers”.
Later in the day, minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre scheduled a meeting to discuss the issue on 29 June in Delhi.
The Nevali airport issue dates back to the pre-Independence era when the British government in 1945 acquired 1,600 acres to build an airstrip for use during World War II. However, after India became Independent the land was transferred back to the farmers who were its original owners.
A few years ago, the defence ministry acquired the land for a proposed defence airport. Earlier this month, the Indian Navy started building a compound wall on the land even as farmers, who claimed the land was forcibly acquired by the government, were engaged in sowing operations for the kharif season.
Parambir Singh said the farmers had informed the police about a peaceful protest on Thursday which suddenly turned violent. “The villagers turned violent and started attacking cops. We will identify the mischief mongers and file attempt to the murder cases against them,” Singh said.
Shiv Sena MP from Kalyan, Shrikant Shinde, told reporters that the farmers were working the land for the last 75 years and they would “naturally object if the land was suddenly being acquired”.
“The farmers are not ready to part with the land,” Shinde said.
Meanwhile, chief public relations officer (defence) Rahul Sinha, issued a statement saying “the land in reference is owned by Ministry of Defence/Indian Navy and the state government land records certify the same. The 7/12 extracts are held with Defence Estate Officer, Mumbai, and the land was acquired by the Ministry of Defence,” the statement said.
The statement said that “the Navy is constructing a peripheral boundary wall to protect and safeguard defence land from further encroachment”.