Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, already in the middle of a political battle ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, may face fresh trouble in his state as farmers and pastoral people have renewed their agitation against the land allotted to Maruti Suzuki India for its proposed Rs 4,000-crore plant.
According to the agitating farmers, their protest is not against industrial development but against the alleged wrongful acquisition of their land. “We do not have anything against Maruti or the industries. But development does not mean you snatch our land. However, if our land is not returned, we swear we will not allow the Maruti plant to come up,” threatened Lalji Desai of Jameen Adhikar Andolan – Gujarat (JAAG), one of the groups spearheading the protest.
On Saturday, police allegedly baton-charged the Maldhari cattle-breeders at a protest rally. Desai added that members of the community in 18 districts would soon hold a meeting to decide whether they would continue with the agitation.
The farmers are laying claim to over 200 acres allotted to MSI by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) that fall under Modi’s ambitious Mandal-Becharaji special investment region (SIR) project. “We had planned a cattle rally in Hansalpur village (where Maruti's manufacturing unit is planned), when suddenly the police resorted to unprovoked and sudden baton charge. Currently, we do not get permission for arranging protest rallies because the government does not want to show that there is trouble in Gujarat. Male policemen were dragging female protestors by their hair,” said a source.
Villagers claim that the land allotted to Maruti is cultivable and used for grazing. In 2010, the villagers had filed a case to rectify a “mistake” where during computerisation in 2004, 210 acres were erroneously marked as uncultivated land. The land was allotted to Maruti in 2011, even as the case was pending, the protestors claimed.
In a related development, farmers of the Dholera SIR have intensified their protests, locking horns with the government for allegedly taking away the fertile land for industrial development. They also claimed that the entire area has been denotified from the Narmada command area, leaving the area without irrigation water. They also alleged that the town-planning scheme takes away their fertile land and gives uncultivable land.