Death toll in clash between farmers and police rises to four

The farmers' agitation in Uttar Pradesh over land acquisition spread to Agra and Aligarh on Sunday. Saturday witnessed clashes between farmers and police at Bhatta-Parsaul village in Greater Noida and the death toll in the violence went up to four on Sunday. Two policemen and a farmer were killed on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the State government, in a bid to play down the episode, denied that the incidents were related to land acquisition. A government spokesman claimed that land acquisition at Bhatta-Parsaul, which was part of the “normal development process,” began in March 2009 and ended in July 2010.

“No dispute”

Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh said, “Even compensation amounting to about Rs. 300 crore for about 450 hectares of land was settled; there was no dispute.”

With the Opposition parties launching an onslaught on the issue, Chief Minister, Mayawati has blamed them for “misleading the gullible” farmers into creating a law and order situation.

The government said the media and the Opposition had got their facts wrong. They were creating misconceptions about the causes of Saturday's violence in Greater Noida, it alleged.

The government reaction came after Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh and about 500 party workers were stopped from going to Bhatta-Parsaul and subsequently arrested on Sunday, and farmers' violence was reported from Agra and Aligarh. Mr. Ajit Singh was later released.

Anti-socials blamed

At a hurriedly arranged press conference, the Cabinet Secretary accused anti-social elements of inciting the farmers to resort to violence and arson.

Three UPSRTC employees were taken hostage by the villagers and the administration, but police exercised great restraint in dealing with the situation. The transport employees were called by the villagers for developing a bus route, he said.

Reward announced

Confirming the death toll at four, the Cabinet Secretary said 22 persons were arrested and a reward of Rs. 50,000 was announced for information on the whereabouts of farmers' leader Manveer Singh Tewatia.

As for the dharna at Bhatta-Parsaul, he said it was to protest the delay in the development process. He admitted that land for the Yamuna Expressway project was acquired in the village. “But land for the project was taken much beyond these villages,” he noted.

Violence was reported from Chaugan village in Agra and Ghagholi village at Tappal in Aligarh district, where farmers torched a camp office of the builder of the expressway project. A generator and a machine, reportedly belonging to the developer, were destroyed.

Reports said four policemen and some farmers were injured in a clash in the Etmadpur police station area in Agra. There were no casualties.

The Cabinet Secretary said the Agra incident was not related to land acquisition. “In fact, it was the fallout of a dispute over building the terrace of a temple in the area.”