Police Atrocities on the Farmers and Nature Based Communities on the Rise in Madhya Pradesh
One Killed in Police Firing in Raisen; and 53 Arrested in Anuppur while protesting Land Acquisition
New Delhi, May 8th : Farmers and those dependent on the land and other natural resources are constantly at the receiving end of the police violence these days. Land conflicts are the order of the day and it seems they are here to stay given the corporates hunger for the land, water and forests for commercial exploitation and profit. We strongly oppose and condemn any such forceful acquisition of these scarce resources from people by the government and corporations. NAPM has demanded and continues to struggle for the repeal of the Land Acquisition Act and enactment of a national Development Planning Act. The proposed Bill which is now with the Parliamentary Standing Committee doesn’t address all the concerns raised by us, hope the Committee will take note of the suggestions given by us. India as a nation can only have a healthy growth and development if we look after the interests of the farmers, peasants, landless workers, dalits, divasis and those living on the margins of the society.
Police Firing in Raisen
We strongly condemn the death of Harisingh, 35-year-old former sarpanch, yesterday while a group of farmers blocked traffic in Raisen protesting the suicide by another farmer a day before and shortage of gunny bags. Bhagwan Singh Rajput, a farmer who was not able to sell his wheat for past several days, committed suicide in Barni Jagir village of Raisen on Sunday. It is ironic that while the farmers continue to die the state and central governments rather than providing relief and taking action are blaming each other. Farmers have been agitating since April 16th on this issue but finally it is the death of farmers which has nudged the governments to act. It is extremely unfortunate that the dead body of Mr. Harisingh was not handed over to the relatives after post mortem and police in their presence burnt it on their own. The situation is tense in the villages since police is making arrests and has imposed curfew in the region.
Police Action in Jaithari, Anuppur
In another instance on May 5th, farmers protesting against the forceful land acquisition and demanding higher compensation and jobs for the land acquired for the 1200 MW Moser Baer Thermal Power Plant in Jaithari Tehsil were lathi charged and arrested. Nearly 27 people have received serious injuries and many more are injured. Farmers here have been agitating against the land acquisition for a long time under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union. The land was acquired from the farmers at the rate of Rs. 65,000 per acre, whereas, the farmers have been demanding a much higher compensation rate. There have been ongoing negotiations but the company has failed to keep the agreement. Jagdish Singh, Rampal Singh and 16 more have been slapped with serious charges under Section 307 and others, while more than 150 people have been arrested.
Moser Baer is currently developing the first phase of 1200 MW (2X600 MW) for which it has acquired 996 acres of land including 93.6 acre of forest land. In the second phase they intend to add 1320 MW additional capacity. It needs to be noted that Anuppur district has a high tribal population (36.4%) and as per the clearance given they need to seek forest clearance under EPA, settle the rights if any under FRA. The Environmental Clearance was also challenged in the High Court citing irregularities and non-compliance with the PESA provisions since the land is in 5th Schedule. Anuppur is a water stress region but even then a thermal power plant of this magnitude has been sanctioned. The EIA report mentions that the 290 families will be displaced by the project but the status of Resettlement and Rehabilitation is also not known till date.
We believe there is a need to do a thorough review of the project, resettlement and rehabilitation, settlement of rights of the adivasis, if any, and pay adequate compensation to the farmers and others who have lost their livelihood due to the project.
Even as we denounce the heavy handedness and the police action against protesters we demand action and a judicial enquiry in both the instances and adequate compensation to the victims and stop harassing the farmers and unconditionally release all those in jail. It is unfortunate that while MP Government claims to be bringing in prosperity for all but the farmers and nature based communities continue to suffer due to large number of thermal power plants coming in Chhindwara, Singrauli, Jhansi and the dams on the Narmada and other rivers. It is high time that Chief Minster, Shivraj Singh Chauhan listened to the people and not sacrificed their lives for the needs of ‘development’ of the other regions. The attack on farmers and commons, and pursuit of neo-liberal policies will only severely impact the food security of the nation and also is a worrying sign for the shrinking democratic spaces for those protesting these.
Medha Patkar, Dr. Sunilam, Prafulla Samantara, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Anand Mazgaonkar, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Rajendra Ravi, Vimal Bhai, Madhuresh Kumar