After the North American Punjab Association (NAPA) wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama and senators, urging them against grant of visa to him, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday reached out to his Punjab counterpart Parkash Singh Badal over Sikh farmers facing imminent divestment of the land they have been tilling in Kutch for decades.
In its letters, NAPA expressed strong resentment at the Modi government’s attempts to “displace” the Sikh farmers who had settled in Kutch over five decades ago. Mr. Modi denied that his government pressured them to return home and said the issue was politically motivated. A State government release said that Mr. Modi clarified to Mr. Badal that the impasse was the fallout of an Act brought in by the Congress 50 years ago and a government resolution of 1973. However, his government would ensure that no injustice was done to these farmers.
He said Sikh representatives met him in Gandhinagar on Sunday, and were happy with the government’s efforts at resolving the issue.
Sikh cultivators settled in Kutch over 50 years ago when the area bordering the Rann and Pakistan was barren. Two years ago, as farmland prices shot up, the State government barred them from either selling, or taking loan or subsidy on their land under the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1958. It also stopped issuing certified copies of land records. The farmers challenged the order in the Gujarat High Court and won. However, the government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the order.
The farmers appealed to Mr. Badal, SGPC president A.S. Makkar and the National Commission for Minorities, which urged Gujarat to withdraw the case. On Saturday, Mr. Badal said he would take up the matter with BJP president Rajnath Singh and Mr. Modi. However, Mr. Modi blamed it on the Congress, saying the party had no right to speak about the Sikh community as it was responsible for the massacre of Sikhs in the 1984 riots in Delhi.