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Brutal eviction drive shatters hopes of dalit sharecroppers in Guna

Screengrab of a video showing the police removing a family whose two members reportedly consumed pesticide while resisting an anti-encroachment drive in Guna district.  

Last year’s nightmare returned to haunt the landless, sharecropping Ahirwar family of Guna on July 14. They had then seen the wheat they had nurtured for months being being bulldozed by officials in minutes; destroying not just their harvest but also hopes of earning enough to own a piece of land.

This time round, the family's resolve was stronger to protect their 40-bigha field, sown with the year's first crop when revenue officials rolled in with earthmovers and jeeps and escorted by the police.

Also read | Madhya Pradesh rights panel seeks reports from government over Guna incident

“We requested them to wait for at least another two and a half months for the soyabean harvest,” recalled Sishupal Ahirwar, 20.

But officials ignored their request and began measuring the land allotted for the construction of a government college, and began digging up their fields.

Desperate protest

“I had no option but to consume pesticide. We had taken the land on lease to feed my six children. There was no point in surviving if I couldn’t fulfill my duty as a father,” said Rajkumar Ahirwar, 38, who consumed pesticide along with his wife after being assaulted by the police when they tried to prevent the officials. The couple is now under treatment at the Guna district hospital.

Outraged at seeing his family abused and roughed up, his brother Sishupal blocked police personnel attempting to move the couple into an ambulance, at which they beat him also with batons. Witness to the violent assault, the couple’s children were left wailing as their parents fell unconscious.

 

“They thrashed us and then registered a case against us. I want justice. Otherwise what happened to us could happen to someone else tomorrow,” said Mr. Rajkumar.

The couple have been charged with obstructing officials from performing their duty.

The family of six brothers have cultivated the land for at least the last five years as sharecroppers of the purported owner, Gabbu Pardhi.

“Every harvest, we give half of the roughly 200-250 quintals of produce to him,” explained Mr. Sishupal.

Also read | Five Dalit men assaulted over land dispute in Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri

Rising loan burden

But last year, when their crops were destroyed, the family couldn’t repay the loan taken for implements and pesticide. And the amount has added to their financial burden this year..

“We have to repay ₹3 lakh this year, including the ₹1 lakh from last previous year,” said Mr. Sishupal. “How will we repay the loan if they continue to destroy our crops this way? And I don't think we will be able to buy land on our own now. ”

Last year, the family was caught unawares when officials bulldozed their wheat crop around 3 a.m.. “We didn’t get any notice this time too. They didn’t listen to us despite repeated appeals for deferring the anti-encroachment drive. We don’t claim the land is ours, but let us at least have the means to buy our own, harvest what we have sown,” said Geeta Devi, their mother, whose clothes were torn in the scuffle.

The State government has replaced the Guna Superintendent of Police and Collector besides the Gwalior range Inspector General of Police after brutal attack on the sharecroppers and initiated a magisterial inquiry.

Meanwhile, the Guna administration on Saturday said it had served a notice on landowner Pardhi, who faces 16 cases, under the M.P. Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, 1990.


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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 8:22:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/brutal-eviction-drive-shatters-hopes-of-dalit-sharecroppers/article32131529.ece

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