Thursday, November 9

A Day in the Life of Farmers

An eye-witness account by Jatinder Preet of the farmers protest against the acquisition of their lands with whole state machinery arrayed against them.

Farmers facing dispossession from their lands in different parts of Punjab are struggling to make their voices heard. They are in against formidable opponents in the powerful industrialist backed by state government. More than 300 families in Fatehgarh Chhanna and Dhaula villages of Barnala fighting to retain their farm land, now in possession of Trident Group's Abhishek Industries, were subjected to the display of this brute power again yesterday. Their land has been acquired and given away to the private company owned by Rajinder Gupta, for its expansion plans. While few of the farmers have given in to accept compensation, others are holding their ground calling the amount being offered as meager. Farmers' organizations, leading the fight-back, had called for a token protest yesterday to sow wheat in their land, now barricaded with a wall erected around it. The police got into action picking up farmers whom they could lay their hands on during the whole week. The whole area in and around these villages was turned into a police garrison. Khaki dotted every road and by-lane leading to the factory premises near the villages. The SSP, S.K. Asthana himself led the action with the police posse reinforced with heavy bandobust from neighbouring districts. Farmers led by Bhartiya Kissan Union (Ekta) activists succeeded in outmaneuvering the heavy police deployment converging in Dhaula and Chhanna. A police party managed to reach the assembly of farmers in village Dhaula but had to turn their tails faced by determined farmers, but not before taking away five people, including two teenagers.While the policemen kept watch on different barricades, farmer-activists kept trickling in, taking alternate routes through fields. By evening the group that had swelled considerably decided to move. The slogan-shouting farmers, including women, marched towards the barricade put up on the main road leading to the factory. They were greeted by heavy police party armed with batons, riot-control vehicles and water-cannons blocking the road completely. The peaceful protesters sat on one side of the road shouting slogans addressed by different farmer leaders. Having made their point with a group of media-persons covering the event, they decided to stay put.In the meanwhile, another group of farmers had assembled at village Fatehgarh Chhanna. A police contingent descended on the village with the police chief Asthana, himself leading the way. As evening set in, the farmers, who had gathered in a house approached by narrow lanes, moved to village Gurdwara announcing to call it a day. The police contingent surrounded the Gurdwara. As soon as an announcement was made from the Gurdwara speaker calling upon villagers to keep vigil, it was cut off. Villagers coming to Gurdwara were turned away from the gate by the policemen. For first time since the Gurdwara was established in the village, no evening prayers were held for the day.The farmers announced to stay the night there. The ladies of the village prepared langar. As the protesters started partaking langar in batches, the police made announcements ordering them to come out and get themselves arrested. The police plans were made obvious when an attempt was made to snatch camera of one media-person and two empty buses were driven in. He alleged his camera was broken.Village Sarpanch and members of panchayat were brought in. The SSP had a menacing tone as he asked them to go inside and tell the farmers to give in if they wanted to be saved from what he called ‘chhitar parade’ reminding them of Bhadaur (One person was killed and many were injured in a clash between the police and the residents at Bhadaur over the issue of demarcation of land of a gurdwara). He openly threatened them of throwing them all behind bars for “at least two months”.The police did not wait for the panchayat to come out. Armed with lathis and pelting brickbats they stormed into the Gurdwara. All hell broke loose as couple of the protesters tried to resist. The policemen rained lathis dragging people. The protesters, prepared for the worst, shouted they would come out voluntarily. All this while few media people present, herded together, watching meekly. No flash bulbs were popped. No one wanted to get into trouble. A single spotlight aimed towards the Gurdwara pierced the pitch darkness outside to help policemen bring the farmers onto the buses. Two buses were not enough to contain the surging farmers. More vehicles were summoned. An elderly man, who could not be identified, was brought in, held by two burly policemen in plain-clothes to the SSP. The SSP patted his back speaking something which could not be heard in the din. He was taken towards the police officers vehicles parked together. A policemen was heard shouting take him to sahib’s car. When asked who he was, the SSP feigned ignorance, cheekily adding that he might be one of his relatives if he was taken to his car. Later the SSP was heard telling someone on the phone that there was no lath charge and that no policemen went in the Gurdwara. The farmers came out on their own, he said. Inside the Gurdwara plates strewn here and there with unfinished food told a different story.The story is unfinished yet.
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1 comment:

p said...

this never comes in News Papers. No blogger wants to read this.
shame on us.