Rahul meets PM over UP farmers’ stir

Rahul meets PM over UP farmers’ stir

New Delhi: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding farmer protests over land acquisition in western Uttar Pradesh.

“I am very concerned with what is going on in the villages of Noida. Severe atrocities took place. People were killed and raped. Villagers asked me that they wanted to meet the PM. I facilitated that... The situation is pretty bad," Gandhi told reporters after the meeting. He was accompanied by eight farmers from Bhatta and Parsaul villages.

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A memorandum submitted by the farmers to Singh said they were not against road building but were protesting the Uttar Pradesh government’s attempt to forcibly acquire land and deprive them of their livelihoods to “enrich private real estate companies and their promoters and partners".

Gandhi was detained by Uttar Pradesh police last Wednesday when he visited the villages on the eastern outskirts of New Delhi, where farmers are demanding greater compensation for land earmarked for a new 165km motorway to Agra. Two policemen and two farmers were killed in violent clashes.

Gandhi showed photographs of alleged atrocities against farmers in the villages near Noida. “We have seen ashes of dead bodies of 74 villagers. We have visuals. The UP government’s atrocities are continuing," he alleged. “Most poor people want development. But the question is how to satisfy their demand."

Gandhi is not being astute by reducing the land acquisition issue to a law and order situation, an analyst said.

“He is playing immature politics, which is dangerous," said B.G. Verghese, a visiting professor at the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research.

Assembly polls are due in 2012 in India’s most populous state that sends 80 lawmakers to the Lok Sabha.

Another political analyst said Gandhi has failed to sustain the momentum on the issue.

“He should have taken up foot march from those villages to other parts of the state to mobilize farmers because its a sensitive and valid issue," said Badri Narayan, an Uttar Pradesh-based analyst. “He has failed to build up on the momentum his visit and subsequent arrest had created."