Gorakhpur: The struggle of peasants against forcible land acquisition is entirely just!

Since 18th July, hundreds of peasant families in Gorakhpur, Haryana have pitched their tents under the hot sun on their fields in the villages. Women, men and children are sitting in protest on the land which the government wants to acquire for setting up a nuclear power plant.

Since 18th July, hundreds of peasant families in Gorakhpur, Haryana have pitched their tents under the hot sun on their fields in the villages. Women, men and children are sitting in protest on the land which the government wants to acquire for setting up a nuclear power plant.

Led by the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, the peasants and broad masses of people in the area have vowed not to allow their fertile lands to be taken over for this nuclear project, which they feel is also a danger to their lives and the lives of future generations.

The struggle of the peasants and working people of Gorakhpur against the forcible acquisition of land for a proposed nuclear power plant has reached a new stage since 16th July, 2012. It may be recalled that this struggle has been raging for over two years now, and has included a continuous dharna at the mini secretariat at Fatehabad in Haryana. During the course of their long struggle, the people of the area have clearly informed the district administration, the state and central governments, the Nuclear Power Corporation authorities, as well as the MLA and MP of their area of their complete opposition to the acquisition of their lands and to the setting up of a nuclear power plant. The Fukoshima disaster of 2011 has only increased the resolve of the people of the area to the proposed nuclear plant.

Two issues have become intertwined. Firstly, the peasants of the area are opposed to forcible acquisition of their fertile lands. Secondly, the workers, peasants and entire people of the area are opposed to the proposed nuclear plant, which they believe endangers their lives and also will deprive them of future prospects of livelihood, as a vast area around the plant will become a zone where no industry can be set up.

Despite this powerful and united opposition, the central and state authorities have been hell bent on their course. They have hoped that the peasants’ opposition could be handled just by increasing the compensation formula.

On 16th July, an important meeting of the Gorakhpur Kisan Sangharsh Samiti was held, in which peasants of the different villages together decided their course of action. They decided to follow a two-pronged course. One prong was to make sure that their family members were on the fields, protecting the land from being acquired. The second prong was to ensure that the "Public Hearing" would be used to expose the fraudulent claims of the government. This is exactly what the peasants have succeeded in achieving.

The much talked about "Public hearing" was organized on 17th July, 2012. Fatehabad area was turned into a massive police camp, to block thousands of protestors from reaching the site of the hearing. Even the people who came to the hearing found that the authorities and the NPCL scientists were unwilling or unable to answer their queries. Within 70 minutes, the hearing was called off, saying that it was impossible to conduct it in conditions of such mass opposition.

On 18th July, the government announced "awards" for the 1500 acres of land it proposed to acquire, and made much noise about how it had increased the compensation so that it would be more than 30 lakh rupees per acre of acquired land. However, on that day, and in the days that followed, not a single peasant has come forward to take compensation for his land. The authorities are sitting in their pandals, with cheque books in their hands, ready to distribute the cheques, but there are no takers. On the other hand, members of the peasant families are firmly sitting in their makeshift tents on their fields, showing their united opposition to the governments' attack on their livelihood and rights.

As we go to the press, the dharna at the District headquarters, the mini secretariat at Fatehabad, continues. The leader of the peasant farmers, Hansraj Siwach, has declared numerous times that they will continue to fight until the government publicly abandons its land acquisition plans.

The government has no right to forcibly acquire the land of peasants, in Gorakhpur or in any part of the country. The government has no right to impose a nuclear power plant on an unwilling people. Hence the peasants and the people of Gorakhpur deserve the support of all progressive political forces.

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