People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 23

June 05, 2011


Fight against SEZ Intensifies in Nashik


Shreedhar Deshpande


AROUND 2500 acres of fertile land has been grabbed jointly by an Indian corporate house and the bureaucracy, but we can get back the entire land if we give a sustained fight. So said B G Kolse Patil, a retired High Court judge while addressing a rally after a Morcha taken to the collector’s office in Nashik. Others who addressed the rally included Ashok Dhawale, Kumar Shiralkar, J P Gavit and Sanjay Thakur, along with Desle Keru Patil and many other leaders of the Left.


Here, first the bureaucracy told the peasants that land acquisition was being done for the purpose of “Starred MIDC” that would create a large number of jobs. The compensation paid to the peasants ranged between 1.35 lakh to 2.10 lakh rupees per acre. But the land purchased for Rs 32 crore was later sold to a super rich corporate house for Rs 64 crore. In turn, again declaring the area as a special economic zone (SEZ), the company began selling it to the industrialists at rates ranging from 1 crore to 2 crore rupees per acre. This leaves for one no need to mention how all other promises turned to be false.


Next, when they required 500 acres of land for a coal power plant over a length of 28 km, passing through many towns, along a railway track between Nashik and Pune, the state administration ---unmindful of the adverse environmental effects of the project --- came out with a notification for the purpose.


All means were now used to suppress the strong opposition being put up by the peasants. This compelled the peasants to take out a morcha to the tehsil office. But being determined to protect the interests of the company, the police resorted to a brutal lathicharge. Even women and the aged were not spared. After a few peasants tried to control the explosive situation and for the purpose got hold of a police inspector who had turned violent and was beating women savagely, and confined him to a room, the police force entered one house after another, dragged the peasants out mercilessly and put behind bars over 200 of them. Seeing the attitude of the police force that had gone berserk, people started running out of their houses and took shelters in adjacent villages or stayed with their relatives. The whole village of Gulwanch thus wore a gloomy and deserted look for several days. Also, the police registered cases against some 125 men under article 307 (attempt to murder). The police inspector in question resumed duty after some 15 days, which meant that he had not sustained any serious injury. Yet the police let loose a reign of terror in the entire area.


It was in this grave background that the said morcha was taken to the collector’s office in Nashik. This was preceded by a dharna organised by the Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti, led by Dr D L Karad, its president. The ruling party leaders still tried hard to see that the morcha failed. But local leaders moved from village to village, explaining to the peasants the dire need of taking out a morcha and enthusing the peasants to making the morcha a success.


The memorandum presented to the collector on the day demanded, among other things, that the said coal project must be stopped and the Delhi-Bombay industrial corridor must be scrapped, all the land taken from the peasants must be returned, all the false police cases against the peasants must be withdrawn. It also demanded that a case must be registered against Suryavanshi, the police inspector who was responsible for the savage lathicharge.


Later, a team of advocates, ked by Advocate Jayant Jaybhave (former chairman, Maharashtra & Goa Bar Council) pleaded the peasants’ case powerfully and got all the accused released on bail. This has created a wave of fresh enthusiasm among them and they organised a function to felicitate the team of advocates at Gulwanch. At the function, Jayant Jaybhave assured the peasants all the necessary help till the last, adding that they would organise a team of most eminent lawyers from Maharashtra to help the peasants’ fight, gratis, right up to the Supreme Court. This received a big applaud. In his scintillating speech, Dr Karad urged upon all the villagers and different leaders to sink their differences and stand resolutely behind the peasants. Mandlik and his Navakal, among others, gave the agitation good coverage all through. They were also felicitated. At one stage, Navakal editor Khadilkar himself joined the morcha and addressed the peasants.


Kisan Sabha members, including women, joined the morcha under the leadership of J P Gavit. Tanaji Jaybhave, Advocate Vasudha Karad, Sitaram Thombre, Advocate Jai Singh Sangale, Haribhau Tambe, Ugale, Wagh, Deshmukh and other laboured hard to make the morcha a grand success. Efforts are on by the Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti to take the struggle to a higher level.