Rajasthan's Protesting Farmers Arrested as Construction Begins on 'Disputed' Land

The farmers had buried themselves in the land to protest against the acquisition of 1,350 bighas of land for a housing project without fair compensation.

JDA began construction work on the mandir mafi land on Saturday in the presence of police force. Credit: Shruti Jain

Jaipur: Ten days after the Nindar farmers called off their protest, seeking written orders from the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) that a fresh survey of the acquired land would be conducted, the authority on Saturday began construction work of the housing project – in the presence of police force – on approximately 40 bighas of mandir mafi land, that it says is ‘undisputed’.

“It was 11 am when the police gheraoed the Lala Bora ki Dhani and JDA brought in JCB machines. The men had gone out on work and only women and children were at home. We rushed out and showed them the high court orders but they didn’t listen to us,” Manni Devi (50), who was beaten up by the police, told The Wire.

Manni Devi showing her swollen feet. Credit: Shruti Jain

The villagers have alleged that while they were trying to convince JDA not to take over their lands, the builder’s men, who were standing among the crowd, started pelting stones on the police, due to which the forces lathi charged on them.

“It was their pre-planning to beat like this to scare us and force us to surrender our land to them,” said Ram Lal Bohra, land owner of 16 bigha of the mandir mafi land.

The police have arrested 15 protesters, including the leader of the Zameen Samadhi Satyagraha, Nagendra Singh Shekhawat, for damaging the road constructed by JDA in September and stone pelting.

“A case against five protesters including Shekhawat was registered under Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage of Public Property act after JDA complained of damage to public property, and ten others were arrested for pelting stones on the police under Section 151 of CrPC (Arrest to prevent commission of cognizable offences). Three out of the ten were given bail but the leader is still in lock-up,” Lakhan Singh, SHO of Harmara police station told The Wire.

Speaking to The Wire, Raj Kumar Singh, deputy commissioner of JDA said, “The protest was carried out by wrong people. So, they had to go to the jail. The leader didn’t have any inch of land in Nindar, it was just meant to gain political numbers.”

Singh claims no breach of contract has been done. “The protesters had demanded a fresh survey which is now 50% complete and the compensation for the mandir mafi land was deposited in the civil court three years back. There was no point in delaying the project. We have listened to the farmers but they cannot dictate to us every time.”

Residents of the mandir mafi land say that the land belongs to them. Credit: Shruti Jain

The residents of Lala Bora ki Dhani, where the JDA has begun the construction work, say that no survey was carried out. “Our lands have not been surveyed after the protest was called off. They are lying,” said Ram Lal.

The authorities say that the land is being developed so that those farmers who have surrendered their land in lieu of 25% of developed land from the project, in proportion to the area of their land acquired, can be compensated. However, no written assurance is given to the farmers that they would be allotted land on the same location.

JDA working in Nindar village in presence of police. Credit: Shruti Jain

“Once this land is developed, the farmers who have surrendered their lands to us in return for 25% of the developed land from the scheme will be compensated, but that will depend on the lottery system.”

Asked how hopeful JDA is about this scheme when most of its colonies are lying vacant, he replied, “The colonies are 100% sold. If people are not building homes on their lands, it is not our issue.”

Also read: Behind Rajasthan Farmers’ Burial Protest, a Story of Bitterness Over Forced Land Sale

“Our Swapan Lok and Anand Lok colonies are so beautiful that even government officers have started to buy land there.”

Sources say that JDA didn’t begin construction on the 274 bighas of land that was under their possession earlier because the owner of Gemini farms, where the authority had forcefully tried to construct a road in September, managed to get a stay order from court for a month, since construction began before compensation was paid. The farmers began their protest on the land of the Gemini farms during this period. However, the deputy commissioner refused to accept that there was any stay order.

Nindar farmers have lost all hope of saving their land from acquisition. Credit: Shruti Jain

“There was no stay order. We wanted to listen to what the farmers had to say. They demanded a fresh survey and that is taken care of,” he said.

Most of the affected families are not the titled owners of the land that will be acquired and hence are not even liable for compensation. Even the Rs 60 crore compensation, that the JDA claims to have paid to the farmers, is actually deposited in the civil court, and the farmers will have to fight a legal battle to seek their part of the compensation.

“We have lost all hope now that our land will be saved. We never thought that our month-long protest would go in vain,” said Mahendra Singh, a resident of Nindar, whose land is notified for acquisition.

The land owners feel that the demands put forward to the JDA should have clearly stated that the land should be de-acquired.

“I’m yet to understand the utility of demanding a fresh survey. The agreement between the farmers and the JDA did not survive even for a week,” said Reetu, a land owner in Nindar.

Residents of Nindar village protesting over land acquisition

Residents of Nindar village protesting over land acquisition. Credit: Shruti Jain

The builders had already purchased the land awarded to the farmers in return for the surrendered land on an agreement that when the land is formally issued to them, the builders would take possession.

“What JDA is doing today should have been done earlier. Those who have surrendered their lands in lieu of the developed land should get something in-hand. However, we are still not hopeful about getting land in the prime location. JDA has verbally agreed to give us the area within the radius of one kilometer but we can only hope they stick to what they say,” Banshidhar Rundla, a property dealer based in Nindar told The Wire.

Shruti Jain is a freelance journalist.

Read Comments