Accusing the ruling BJP government of resorting to British-style repression, the Madhya Pradesh Congress has asked Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to immediately stop “forcible land acquisition” for a power project in Katni, about 300 km from here.

The protests against the project have claimed the life of woman farmer Sunia Bai who immolated herself on Tuesday after she received a government notice asking her to vacate 4.5 acres of land she owned.

“The BJP government has been using repressive tactics in order to secure land for Welspun Energy’s Katni Thermal Power Project [KTPP],” leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Ajay Singh said here on Friday.

For the last eight months, farmers in Katni’s Bujbuja and Dokaria villages have been protesting against the ‘forcible acquisition of fertile irrigated land’ for the 1980-MW KTPP. On Thursday, police arrested 12 protesting farmers along with the former Janata Dal (United) MLA, Saroj Nayak.

“Farmers in the two villages are terrorised and incidents of the last few days have exposed the government’s anti-farmer face,” said Mr. Singh, addressing journalists following his visit to the villages.

Earlier this month, the farmers launched a chita satyagraha against the project by setting up funeral pyres and threatening self-immolation if their land was not returned.

The movement reached its peak when Sunia Bai immolated herself. Tension escalated further when the police cane-charged agitating farmers who had been refusing to cremate the woman’s body. Later, the police forcibly took away the body and cremated it. Sunia’s husband Chhaka Gadari has reportedly claimed that officials from the police and the administration had been regularly threatening the family to vacate their land.

The movement has now assumed political overtones with politicians across the ideological spectrum extending support to the agitating farmers and condemning the government for acquiring land forcibly.

While local leaders of the JD(U) had been leading the movement for some time, party president Sharad Yadav recently visited the two villages and warned the authorities against forcible acquisition of agricultural land.

In a statement, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) called the police action inhuman and barbaric and sought a high-level probe.