‘Land Acquisition Act must be amended to make consent of farmers essential”

Contrary to the claims made by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi regarding mass killings and rapes by security men at Bhatta-Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh, the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) said there was no evidence to this claim, albeit “there was clear evidence of police brutality and repression in the two villages.” Mr. Gandhi's claims had come in the wake of protests by farmers over land acquisition by the State government.

The Congress party must refrain from seeking to divert attention from this pertinent issue by making sensational claims and allegations, AIDWA general secretary Sudha Sundararaman told reporters here on Friday. She was visiting the affected area along with a team from AIDWA.

The Land Acquisition Act, she said, must be amended in such a manner as to make the consent of farmers essential and provide adequate monetary compensation, with a gender-sensitive perspective. The land losers, she said, must be given a stake in the appreciated future value of the land, in addition to other livelihood options.

It is the women who had faced the brunt of police brutality. They were in distress about male household members who were injured, jailed or had left the villages fearing police attacks. “We found them to be extremely intimidated about the heavy police presence in the areas,” the AIDWA team said.

Rajya Sabha member T.N. Seema was one of the members of the visiting team. Calling upon the U.P. government to shed its high-handed attitude on land acquisition and announce a meaningful dialogue with the agitating farmers, Ms. Sundararaman said the Land Acquisition Act was at the root of the entire “unfortunate turn of events.”

The team said efforts must be made to restore normality in the villages without delay. It stressed that medical and other facilities be provided to the injured and police presence be phased off — likewise the threats and intimidation by the police and administration, so that people could return to their homes. Calling for a meaningful dialogue between the U.P. government and the agitating farmers, the AIDWA demanded adequate compensation for the villagers, who had suffered loss of life and property. “While the law must take its own course in the case of all those killed, including two policemen, the effort to take revenge upon all villagers must be discarded. The investigation must keep in view the entire context of administrative high-handedness,” Ms. Sundararaman said.