People's Democracy

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


No. 36

September 08, 2013



Modi Targets Kutch Farmers


A large number of farmers, mostly from the Sikh community in the Bhuj District in Kutch region of Gujarat are the victims of a conspiracy hatched by the Narendra Modi led BJP government and the big corporate companies wanting to take-over land for a pittance. Their plight is all the more glaring when one considers the fact that they originally relocated from the present day Punjab and Haryana at the behest of the then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who after the 1965 Indo-Pak War appealed to the farmers from the region to settle in Kutch. His initiative was primarily with the objective that the enterprising farmers from the region could develop and cultivate the unfertile land and increase food production. In addition to this it is said that he also saw it as a measure to ensure that the borders are defended from any incursions. Today they are sought to be hounded out on the pretext that they were “outsiders” in their own country.


Farmers from the united Punjab came to Kutch, purchased land and settled there on the basis of his appeal. They toiled for years to improve the barren, unfertile wasteland and converted it to fertile productive land by their sheer hard work. They have been now living and cultivating the land in this region for nearly five decades and are growing multiple crops. At present there are over 5000 such families who are cultivating about one lakh acres of land. They are possessing ration cards and voter’s cards and Gujarat is their state of domicile. They speak Gujarati language and have assimilated themselves into the local society. Despite problems and the unviable nature of Indian agriculture these progressive farmers were able to attain reasonable economic security and prosperity through their unceasing efforts.


However, the coming of industries around the region and also the proximity to the port had led to a feverish race to grab land cheaply, at times also through threat and intimidation. The BJP government is now conspiring to force the farmers out of their agricultural land and hand it over for real estate speculation and corporate profiteering. Already in Gujarat over 5 lakh acres of land has been handed over to corporate houses like Adani, Tata, Ambanis. It is with this objective in mind that the Modi government is resorting to the most crude and parochial campaign that the farmers are “outsiders” and seeking to divide the society that has been living in harmony for the last 5 decades.


On October 22, 2010, the district collector of Kutch issued an order freezing the agricultural accounts of these farmers on the pretext that they were “outsiders” in Gujarat and stopped the mutation of land. The farmers are now not able to get any loan from banks, cannot get electricity connection and are not able to sell or lease their land. With their livelihoods threatened and when the administration showed no signs of relenting, the farmers approached the Gujarat High Court. The single bench of Gujarat High Court in July 2011 upheld the government order without going into the merit of the case and the ground realities. The farmers challenged this order and appealed to a larger bench. A three Judge bench headed by the Chief Justice heard their plea. On June 22, 2012 the farmers won the case and the Court rejected the government’s order. Modi refused to abide by the High Court judgment. The BJP government has gone to the Supreme Court on July 30, 2012 challenging the High Court order.


The Minority Commission enquired into the matter as the state action was primarily directed against the Sikh minorities and had a prima facie case of discrimination. The farmers also met the prime minister but nothing has come out of it. Repeated efforts to meet Narendra Modi were unsuccessful and he refused to meet them for the last two years. However, on August 4, 2013 they were called by Modi for a meeting. Contrary to their hopes of a solution, he used intimidating tactics and put pressure on them to leave their land quietly or face serious consequences. He reportedly threatened that their failure to comply may resort to their being booked on charges of terrorism.


The Modi government is also now citing a 1958 Act which prohibits non-agriculturists from purchasing agricultural land to justify its action. The Act clearly prohibits non-agriculturists and has not used the term “outsider” and this usage by the BJP government is clearly aimed at taking forward its divisive agenda of pitting the Gujarati Hindus against the Gujarat-settled Sikhs who are domicile residents of the state. It is a crude effort to vitiate the atmosphere of communal harmony and under its cover to allow the corporate land grab. The effort to portray Indian citizens as “outsiders” is against the Indian Constitution and Fundamental Rights enshrined in it. These farmers are agriculturists and hence the above stated Act does not apply to them. The High Court accepted this opinion and rejected the government claim on this premise.


Under Modi’s rule, Gujarat has earlier witnessed attacks on Christian adivasis and there was also the infamous Gujarat carnage in which thousands of innocent Muslims were massacred with his connivance and active support. Kutch itself was witness to the indiscriminate land acquisition in which nearly ten thousand inter-tidal fishermen, most of whom were Muslim families were affected. Now the Sikh farmers are being targeted. This latest instance of targeting a particular community also has a pattern. There has been an economic basis for earlier attacks targeting minorities. It also, yet again, reveals Modi’s anti-minority face. The mask of inclusive growth has slipped and his true face has been exposed in this conspiracy against the farmers from the Sikh community. Modi is working actively to satisfy corporate houses and the real estate mafia and illegally evict the Sikh farmers. The land involved is reported to be valued around twenty thousand crores of rupees. The Modi government is enacting a huge scam that will benefit him and the BJP.


The All India Kisan Sabha, in a press statement issued on September 5, 2013 has condemned this anti-minority conspiracy of Modi and his anti-farmer stance. They expressed solidarity with the affected farmers and said that this conspiracy will be defeated through intense struggles.