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Lack of democratic rights doesn't mean all's well in Gujarat: Farmers' local protests are being suppressed

By Sagar Rabari*

At present farmers in Gujarat are resisting issues they are facing at local level, because they are not allowed to come out and speak. Police raj prevails in Gujarat. They are being denied permission for any type of protest, and this is true for all types organizations. The only organization which is an exception to the rule is the RSS.
Ever since Sanand farmers were lathi charged for demanding irrigation facilities, it has become a norm in Gujarat to explode teargas shells and lathi charge farmers as and when they raise their voice. One wonders if they are sought to be punished for not voting for the BJP during the December 2017 assembly elections, or this type of attitude is borne out of the corporate leaning of the government, inspiring it to manage government formation in one state after another.
Already, farmers of 12 villages in Ghogha have been resisting corporate interests for the last one month, protecting their just rights given to them under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement or LARR Act, 2013. The state government is determined to protect the interests of the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL) instead of protecting farmers’ just rights. Cases have been filed against farmers’ leaders; they have been detained many a time and arrested for organizing peaceful protest marches. Even children and women have not been spared.
Farmers on the route of the proposed bullet train are resisting efforts of the government to forcibly acquire land from Ahmedabad in Gujarat to Thane in Maharashtra. Laws are violated or amended to meet the whims of a person without caring to look into people’s requirements. Even Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) guidelines are not being followed in letter and spirit. Consultations required under the law are organized in a hurry.
Farmers are not being allowed to organize any protest rally on the bullet train route . A couple of days back, in Surat, farmers' leaders were illegally detained by police even before any consultation could begin. Ironically,they were invited for the public consultation through public notice and advertisement in newspapers.
Things are no different in other parts of Gujarat. Sitting on dharna, villagers are protesting at the deputy collector's office in Rajula, Amreli district, against illegal encroachment of village land by a company. It is a shame that, to get back the village land from the company, people should organize a sit-in protest.
It is an irony that the government is doing all this to protect investors and foreign dignitaries, taking the help of police to detain farmers’ leaders. This happened even ahead of Vibrant Gujarat Business Summits.
It is unfortunate that people in India still do not know what is going on in Gujarat. They just assume that farmers in Gujarat are unhappy. But the reality is very different. Just as the rest of India, farmers in Gujarat too are debt ridden, are not getting remunerative prices, and they are not given irrigation water. However, there is a difference: In Gujarat farmers are not allowed to speak, their right to protest is strictly banned. Sometimes farmers in Gujarat wonder if they live in a democratic setup.
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*Secretary, Khedut Samaj (Gujarat)

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