Return Our Lands or We’ll Kill Ourselves: 5,260 Gujarat Farmers

Over 5,000 farmers and their families from Ghogha tehsil in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat have written to the President and the Prime Minister requesting ‘ichha mrityu’ (mass euthanasia) as their land was forcibly acquired by the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL). The farmers in their letter have requested that they want to be gunned down by Indian Armed Forces.

They have alleged that the police are using excessive force, lobbing tear gas shells and are lathi-charging women and children alike. They have threatened to turn their agitation towards violence if their demands are not met. The land, which is over 3,000 acres, was acquired over 20 years ago at cheap rates, but was never used by the GPCL, until now.

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20 Years Ago

In 1997, the GPCL acquired over 3,000 acres of farm land, gauchar land (land for grazing cattle) and waste land from 12 villages of Ghogha tehsil to start a thermal power plant. The plant was to run on lignite – a low quality coal – which was to be mined from the land acquired. Most farmers received compensation of Rs 45,000 to Rs 53,000. Although the land was acquired, GPCL had never taken physical possession of it.

As a result, farmers continued to till the land are still dependent on their farm produce for sustenance. Vasudev Gohil is a farmer from Padi village in Ghogha and owns around 21 bighas of land. He received Rs 45,000 per bigha as compensation for his land back in 1997.

"We grow groundnuts, cotton, Bajra and Jowar in our farms. In 1997, all the land here was acquired by GPCL. However, for the last 21 years, the company did no work on the land. The physical possession of the land is with the farmers who continue to till the land. Now 21 years later, the company has returned to forcefully take over the land." - Vasudev Gohil, FarmerLegal Tangle?

Kanaksinh Gohil, who also belongs to Padi village, explained the matter further:

"The land was acquired in 1997 under the 1894 Land Acquisition Act; however, GPCL did not take possession of the land. In 2013 a new ordinance was passed by the central government, which laid down the litigation on how to acquire land. We told GPCL that the land belongs to us and the matter is in court, but they are still forcing us out of our land."

The Land Acquisition Act came into effect on 1 January 2014. Section 24(2) of the Act mandates that if lands were acquired by an award passed under the old land acquisition act (of 1894) and if five years have passed, and if either the compensation has not been paid or ‘physical possession’ has not been taken, then the acquisition lapses and the company will have to initiate a fresh acquisition.

The farmers have contended that even though there was a consent award, since the law mandates taking physical possession, which was not taken, the acquisition have lapsed. The company will have to acquire the lands afresh as per the prevalent market rate and provide the farmers with all benefits as envisaged under the Act of 2013. If the land is re-acquired at current rates, the farmers will stand to earn Rs 21 lakh per bigha.

Appeal for Mass Euthanasia

There is a massive police presence in 12 villages of Ghogha tehsil and Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (unlawful public assembly of four or more persons) has been imposed.

Yograjsinh, a farmer and resident of Padi village said, “On 13 May, we were taking out a peaceful protest adhering to Gandhiji’s principle of non-violence; still they lobbed tear gas at us and lathi-charged us. They did not spare the women or children either. What kind of law is this? Around 2,500 to 2,700 police personnel including SRP jawans have been deployed in the 12 villages since 30 March 2018 to take forceful possession of the lands of the farmers.”

Kanaksinh laments, “They even imposed Sec 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (unlawful public assembly of four or more persons). Is this place Kashmir? Such a law cannot be enforced on rural areas. This is a village, not a city.”

"In our letter to the President and PM we have requested that we want to end our lives willingly. We want the Indian armed forces to come and mow us down with machine gun fire. If our lands are taken away from us, we have no other occupation to fall back on; this remains our last resort." - Yograjsinh, Farmer . Read more on India by The Quint.Return Our Lands or We’ll Kill Ourselves: 5,260 Gujarat FarmersReal Madrid fans celebrate peacefully at Cibeles fountain . Read more on India by The Quint.