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PUCL, September 2006

Unbound savagery

Brutal repression by UP police, PAC and hired goons on Bejhera Khurd farmers in Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh

A report by People’s Union for Civil Liberties, PUCL and National Alliance for People’s Movement, NAPM - Bhupender Singh Rawat , Pushkar Raj, Rajender Ravi, Shree Parkash, and Tarun Kanti Bose

Foreword

By Rajindar Sachar

This report brings out again sharply the perennial question, which the poor in the country are asking – Development for Whom? Apparently, a big business company has been allotted land disproportionate to the requirement to the extent of 2500 acres whereas according to some experts, requirement should have been 400 acres. There is said to be no covenant fixing a date for the start of the power plant for which allegedly and to meet the shortage of the electricity the contract has been entered into. The result is the displacement of thousands of people from Bejhera Khurd, Kakrana, Dhaulana, Dehra and Jadaupur villages. Well may and rightly the farmers protested not only at being displaced but also at not being given their fair market price to the least they are entitled to; though the Government had promised them it resiled and the farmers persisted in their peaceful protest. They were locked up in jail, barbarous beating by the police and locking up them in jail with injured persons not getting proper medical aid amongst them.

Medha Patkar, Rajender Ravi, Bhupender Singh Rawat and I with others visited the jail on July 9, 2006 and saw injured ones in jail. We also went to the village Bejhera Khurd and were shown the scene of occurrence and were told the brutal and inhuman ways the police and their henchmen (in plain clothes), mercilessly beat them, broke up their meetings, went into their houses, even beat up some of the old women and sick persons who were being removed to the hospital. No enquiry has been neither ordered nor any public apology given by the Government for this inhuman act. The farmers are engaged in their peaceful battle and entitled to all the suppor and, sympathy from all right thinking people.

Another and more significant question arises whether the Government should resort to and whether it should be legally permissible for it to acquire land for the benefit of the company. It may be that for a very definite public purpose a land may have to be acquired by the Government. But when the land is being acquired for a private company even when it is going to engage in production of electricity, I see no justification as to why the Government should use its power to acquire the land at such cheaper rates. It is no answer to say that the company is going to produce electricity or some other public activity because the real motive of the private company is make profits and not engage in public service.

The company must, therefore, go to the public as a businessman and negotiate with the farmers concerned and not take cover under the umbrella of public interest or public benefit. Not only that, it is essential that the whole scheme of acquiring land of the farmers, considering the absolute shortage of agricultural land, a new policy has to be devised by which it is not only incumbent to compensate the farmers the cash market price but there should be a governmental sponsored programme for rehabilitating them and to provide a means of livelihood either by the alternative land or by making suitable arrangements for them. That is why the alternative policy of providing land for land at least has the benefit of looking after provision of livelihood to the displaced farmers and also problem of housing.

This Report represents the facts and though in anger (and in my view justifiably), it is factually correct and by public-spirited people. PUCL along with NAPM presents this report to the social activists of human rights and hopes that issues raised in it will receive their urgent attention so that the poor farmers affected could get immediate relief.

(Rajindar Sachar, Former President, PUCL India; Chief Justice (Retd.)Delhi High Court; UN Special Rappoertuer on Housing; Former member of U.N. Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.)


REPORT
UP government's land grabbing and farmers struggle

Immediately after assuming the office of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, constituted a Uttar Pradesh Development Council (UPDC) under the chair of his confidant Amar Singh. A number of inner circles of Amar Singh became members of UPDC, which included Anil Ambani, Amitabh Bachchan, Adi Godrej and Subroto Roy. The committee was supposed to give advice to the Uttar Pradesh Government for the development of the state, to make it an ‘ Uttam Pradesh’. However, what resulted were not ‘development’ of Uttar Pradesh but distribution of ‘developmental’ projects to committee members and their wards. On December 26th, 2003 the Chairman and Managing Director of Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation, Arun Mishra, while briefing the media told that Reliance Industries is looking for over 2,500 acres of land for its proposed 3000 Megawatt power plant.

On 29th January 2004, Anil Ambani, who was Vice President of the Reliance Group declared in the fourth meeting of UP Development Council that Reliance would invest Rs 10,000 Crore in Uttar Pradesh for the biggest gas base power plant in the world. He further said that the cost of the power generation would be around Rs. 2 per unit and therefore the customers would be paying lesser amount then the current rates. He also added that the first phase of the plant would be completed within a year and it would start generating about 1000-1500-megawatt electricity during this period.

On June 10th, 2004 UP government formally approved the power plant to be built by Reliance Industries at Dadri (Ghaziabad). The chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav said that the Uttar Pradesh would get 1,500 MW electricity, which would be available to people would get 24 hour electricity. Interestingly, the Chief Minister admitted that Reliance has not given any undertaking in writing about the unit cost of electricity but the Chief Minister said that it would be Rs 2 per unit.

On 17th June, 2004, Santosh Kumar Yadav, the then DM, Ghaziabad, informed the press that land acquisition for Dadri plant would soon start under section 6/17. DM Yadav declared that the Government would disburse Rs. 100 per acre as an annual lease rate for non-private lands.

On 20th July 2004, ADM (LA) Indravir Yadav forced the 400 farmers of Dehra and Berhampur villages to sign agreement for Rs 150/- per square yard. In Amar Ujala appeared a report on 24th July 2004 in which it was said that the farmers were not happy with the compensation amount and were planning to intervene legally in the matter. Enraged by ADMs functioning as an agent of Reliance, women of Bejhera Khurd villager did not allow the survey team as they thought that the UP government and the district administration were punishing the farmers for their legitimate demands.

Activists of Maharana Sangram Singh kishan Sangharsh Samiti continued their sit-in dharna at the collectorate and participation by the people increased as the days passed. Farmers from different villages showed their solidarity and strengthened the struggle. Seeing the farmers struggle gaining ground, the district administration became jittery and deployed the PAC

Since the administration had acquired every inch of land belonging to over 2500 families in 5 villages, including the Gram Sabha's land, land meant for ‘cremation’ or burial ground, pond and land belonging to religious places, the farmers continued their protests under Maharana Sangram Singh kishan Sangharsh Samiti. They sat on hunger strike in Dhaulana since 26th November 2005. Five farmers, namely, Mangu Singh Rana, Rohtash Singh, Babu Singh, Malkhan Singh, Deepa Singh and Rambhul Singh had been on long and historic indefinite hunger strike for their 8-point demands. The condition of the two of the farmers Rohtas Singh and Malkhan Singh deteriorated and doctors had to be called in to provide them support. Though the hunger strike was withdrawn the sit-in dharna continues.

On December 13th, 2005 there was a huge Kisan Panchayat at Bejhera Khurd. Government adopted pressure tactics and deployed PAC in the entire village. Officials went to the village and tried to mollify the farmers. A district administration official alleged that the agitation against the power plant was an outcome of instigation by one farmer, whom he didn’t name. The DM tried to hoodwink the people by the argument that the ‘law’ will take its own course and that administration would deal with the striking farmers ‘sternly’. It was pitiable that the DM condemned the farmers and termed their demand as ‘ridiculous’ and aggregated.

On December 25th, 2005 a team of district officials visited the farmers sitting on fast unto death but the farmers refused to listen to their oft repeated demand of compensation was according to law and conventions. On the same day, five farmers of Maharana Sangram Singh Kisan Sangharsh Samiti received notices from Sub District Magistrate charging them becoming obstacle in the ‘development’ of Uttar-Pradesh. These notices were sent to Manoj Bhardwaj, Rajesh Sisodia, Mangu Singh Rana, Yash Pal Singh and Ranvir Singh. They were charged with instigating farmers to sit on hunger strike due to which their conditions deteriorated. Meanwhile Reliance was giving pipe dreams to people of Uttar Pradesh. They claimed that by December 2008, they would supply power to majority of UP town and that capacity of the power plant would be raised to 5,500 megawatt. Again, the officials told that the company would enhance the capacity further to 7,480 Megawatt. Reliance have concealed the fact from where they would be getting the gas and how will they enhance the capacity of the power plant so easily. More importantly, why was the need to acquire such a huge area of land if it could have done in less than 500 acres.

Political parties as well as non-party political formations, such as Rashtriya Lok Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), Dehat Morcha, Kisan Manch participated in the protests launched by the farmers. In January 2006, a big rally showing solidarity to the farmers’ struggle was organised. In the meanwhile, Reliance was sitting quietly over the land unleashing brutal assault through police on the farmers. The ‘farmers struggle’ got highlighted only after former Prime Minister Shri VP Singh decided to take a plunge into it. VP Singh and his comrades in Jan Morcha decided to organise a protest march against the modus operandi adopded acquiring land on July 8th, 2006. It was said that VP Singh would till the land as mark of protest. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav took this as a threat to his personal obligation given to Anil Ambani. He deployed police and para military forces of all the nearby districts to thwart the march by unleashing a ‘reign of terror’ so as to teach the people demanding fair price, a lesson. Police bereft of any decency and norms, which according to Justice AN Mulla, former Chief Justice, Allahabad High Court are ‘organised gangster of criminals in uniform’ unleashed unbound savagery upon the farmers and their family members by mercilessly beating them up, ransacking their houses, looting their cash and jewellery and not even sparing women, infants or old. The police cordoned off the entire village in the midnight of July 7th 2006 and used its might to muzzle the protesting farmers.

To investigate the brutal and unlawful violence against protest farmers by the state police, People’s Union for Civil Liberties and National Alliance for people’s movement formed a joint team, which included Tarun Kanti Bose, Pushkar Raj, Shree Prakash, Rajendra Ravi and Bhupender Singh Rawat visited the affected people and recorded their statements.

Bejhera Khurd faces police brutalities

Bejhera Khurd, the village in Hapur Tehsil, Ghaziabad district is located about 60 kilometres from Delhi. It is said that people started settling in this village in 896 AD. It is a relatively big village with a population of seven thousand people mostly farmers. The most dominant community here is the Rajputs who constitute nearly 60 per cent of the population. A majority of them are farmers. Other 40 percent of the population comprise of Brahmin, dalits, OBC castes and Muslims. Among the dalits, there are Jatavs and Balmikis and OBC castes include Jogi, Goswami, Koli, dhobi, Dhimar, carpenter, Potter and Barber. Muslims include barbers and weavers. Few of the dalits and OBCs own land as majority of them are landless peasants. Dhimar and dhobi do not own a land. Only fraction of Koli families possess land.

The farmers’ movement in the green belt has often turned volatile and violent whenever they felt that they were given unfair deal. This is one of the most prosperous belt of farmers in the country where per capita income of the farmers is much high then their counterparts elsewhere. In the mid eighties Mahendra Singh Tikait’s movement had got wide support and it became difficult for the government machinery to visit the village unless it has got approval of the Bharatiya Kisan Union. Therefore, it is more shocking when the fertile land of this region was being acquired for a project whose benefits no body know. Moreover, compensation planned and being given makes a mockery of playing by the game. More so, because, it is always considered that politicians do everything for votes. One does not know whether the villagers of village Bajhera Khurd are not voters or whether their votes do not count much for the state government.

It is tragic that while land owning farmers might get some compensation (much below their expectations) for their land but there is no possibility for the landless people to get a compensation for their work. Even if they get, bureaucratic hurdles, corruptions and low level of compensation would make it impossible for any of them restart their business. Even 800 acre of the Gram Sabha, which would be acquired for the project, has been fixed an annual lease rate of Rs. 100 per acre for non-private land. Like any other part of western Uttar-Pradesh, this part is also fertile sugarcane belt. While relations with different caste groups in western Uttar-Pradesh remain tense yet they never came out in open. This issue, however, has united all of them together who are on the verge of getting dispossessed from their land.

The prosperity of the western Uttar-Pradesh as well as its proximity to Delhi has allured a large number of industrial houses and corrupt builders who are buying land on hugely subsidised prices with the open support of the state administration and building big malls, multiplexes as well as apartments.

What happened on 8th July 2006?
On Saturday 8th July 2006, early in the morning when people have not fully got up from their sleep, a strong contingent of UP Police, PAC and hired goons of Reliance Energy Limited and the ruling party armed with carbines, rifles, cycle chains, iron rods and lathis descended from their vans surrounded Bejhera Khurd village. They first attacked the tent meant for the proposed meeting of Janmorcha. It was totally destroyed and the activists and farmers sleeping under the tent were beaten up mercilessly. Once they finished their work in the tent, the policemen and those accompanying them divided themselves in a column of 50-60 men and started searching individual households. Whatever, they got in front of them was smashed including vehicles, cycles, boxes, charpoys, tables, chairs, tractors was hit and smashed. Confronted by the rampaging policemen and goons, the dumbfounded villagers attempted to put up a brave front. This resulted in physical assault of each one who tried to question their action. Therefore women, children and even old aged were not left out.

Bejhera Khurd village has a history of leading this movement against acquisition of land and therefore the farmers there became the prime target of the police.

Among the seven villages selected for the acquisition of land for the proposed power plant to be made by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Energy, Bejhera Khurd, has been at the forefront of the struggle launched against the modus operandi adopted in acquiring land for 3,500 MW Power Plant by Reliance Energy. Since February 2004, a sit-in dharna by the farmers under the banner of Maharaja Sangram Singh Kishan Sangharsh Samiti has been continuing unabated. 2,700 families living in Bejhera Khurd, Kakrana, Dhaulana, Jadaupur and Dehra villages face displacement as 2,500 acres of their farming land has been proposed to be acquired for the project.

According to villagers four buses of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and four buses of private musclemen or hired goons descended on the village in the early morning when people just finished their morning cores. Some of them were still sleeping as it was just around 5.45 a.m. when police and the armed militia (these people were simply plainclothes and people believe that they were hired goons of Reliance Industries) without giving any warning swooped on the people, who were sleeping in the tent and ransacked it. It was not enough to satisfy the false ego of their political masters and therefore their chums began raining blows on them with lathis and rifle butts. There was chaos all around as people were running helter-skelter. Some of them were not even woken up properly before the lathi and rifles hit them. In the commotion some of them were overpowered as well as outnumbered and bundled into parked buses.

Having cleared the place of tent and people sitting on dharna the PAC and private lathi- wielding brigade accompanying the police entered the village. As per the villagers, the PAC and musclemen along with it looted almost 200 – 250 houses. There are about 20 shops in the village. The police fired indiscriminately and lobbed teargas shells, took adolescents, young and old to the custody, violated all norms of decency with impunity. Even the media persons were not left. Some of the press persons complained how the police tried to snatch their papers and hit the photographers.

At the Ghaziabad-Delhi border on Ghazipur, a very large contingent of Uttar Pradesh police, PAC had blocked the traffic and erected barriers to disallow any efforts of political parties led by V.P.Singh to reach Bajhera Khurd. When Mr V.P.Singh, Raj Babbar, Udit Raj tried to cross the border, they were arrested and put in a guest houses in Vasundhara under the charges of threatening peace in the region. It is tragic that a state government feel a former prime minister of India who had been Chief minister of state twice and Union minister has become for the ‘peace’ in the region. So terrified was the government of the state that it passed a ban on various political leaders visiting the district. The ban was imposed on V.P.Singh, Raj Babbar and others till 15th August, 2006.

Brutal assault on the villagers by rampaging policemen
Following are the testimonies of the people interviewed by our team.

1. Sanjay Singh, 28: My uncle, Vinod Singh was taken to custody. Prior to his arrest, the police, PAC personnel and goons entered our house by breaking open the door. My uncle and 75-year old grandmother, Ramwati were beaten indiscriminately. Police rained incessant blows on me and I suffered a grievous injury on my head. Forcibly
they took away whatever was cooked and split the milk. Looted all our belongings and stole all the household utensils.

2. Shoma Devi, 37: Barging inside the house by breaking the door, the policemen swooped on me when I was cooking. Using abusive and lewd language, they rained incessant blows with the rifle butts on my left arm, shoulder and hip joints. They didn’t even spare my 13-year old daughter, Ruby. In a fit of rage, they smashed our motorbike, scooter and generator. Policemen stole my ‘mangalsutra’ and purse.

3. Harbati, 54: 50- 60 police personnel pushed the door and came inside. I was driven out of home and blows of rifle butts were continuously rained on my hips, shoulder, back and head. Our television was smashed to pieces. My 17-year old son was kicked by the policemen and beaten mercilessly and my 56-year old husband, Birpal was brutally assaulted and taken to custody. He has been x-rayed thrice for an internal injury. A plastic can full of mustard oil was punctured and was spilled over the ground.

4. Sapna, 24: Rampaging policemen broke my kitchen door and damaged all the utensils. My 11-month old daughter was thrown away in the ground from the cot. My husband was taken to custody and Rs.15,000 was stolen by breaking the cash box. Standing nearby 50-year old Meena said, “ I was brutally assaulted and incessant blows of rifle butts were rained on me. My 3-month old grandson, Monty was not even spared. He was thrown to the ground.”

5. Lekhraj Singh, 90: I was sleeping on my cot outside the house. 50-60 policemen armed with rifles, lathis and iron rods broke the door and pounced on me. They rained incessant blows on my hip joints and shoulder. Still there is excruciating pain on the left side of my shoulder, left arm and hip joints.

6. Dhropa, 35: 50-60 policemen barged inside our house. They swooped on me and beat me mercilessly. Continuous blows of rifle butts were rained on my leg and hips. They entered the kitchen and broke the earthen chulha (oven). Policemen forcibly lifted my golden earrings.

7. Bijesh, 40: The rampaging policemen broke upon our door and started beating my husband. Continuous blows of rifle butt were rained on me. The glass screen of our Maruti car was smashed and my golden anklet was snatched away by the policemen. My son, Somvir was taken to custody.

8. Rampal Singh, 55: At around 6.30 a.m. 60-70 policemen broke upon my iron gate and barged inside our house. Incapacitated by chronic lever problem I was laying on the cot. They pounced on me and disentangled my catheter and threw it. I was writhing with pain. Then they surrounded my wife, Angoori, daughter, Lata, son-in-law Shishpal and son, Manoj and started raining continuous blows with lathis and rifle butts. Rampaging policemen robbed golden earrings of my wife and daughter. Even they broke our almirah and stole Rs.40,000 from the cash box. Before leaving, they smashed the colour television and destroyed the motorbike. My son-in-law Shishpal was taken to custody.

9. Maya, 50: 60 policemen entered our house. They brutally assaulted me. My almirah was broken and all the ornaments, such as anklets, waist chain, rings and bangles were stolen. Even they took away Rs. 30,000. Golden earrings were forcibly snatched from my daughter-in-law and me. Policemen pierced sharp–edged side of the rifle and damaged my son, Sunil Giri’s right eye. I am a widow and he is the only earning member of the family. See how blood is oozing from the bottom of the eye. My other son, Mahesh, who is just 14-year old, was also beaten mercilessly. Yogesh, Sunil’s brother-in-law was taken to custody.

10. Omkari, 40: 50-60 policemen barged inside our house and looted the small shop and took away everything. My husband, Ram Kumar is a poor landless labour who runs this shop to eke out a living. My 1 year daughter, Shivani was forcibly taken from my lap and thrown in the ground. Golden earrings of my 10-year old daughter and me were snatched away by the policemen.

11. Rohtas, 70: 60 policemen barged inside our house. They fired at the right foot of my 30-year old son, Prempal and took him away to custody. His condition is serious. Incessant blows were rained on my left foot. A motorcycle, recently purchased was damaged. They even looted biscuits, cigarettes and Rs.1,000 from the shop, which I run from the house.

12. Daya, 52: 50-60 policemen stormed inside our house. It went berserk and broke open the door. They smashed three motorbikes and a tractor. My 18-year old son, Vikram was brutally assaulted and taken to custody. Prior, to him being driven out of the home incessant blows of rifle butts were rained on Usha, Shashi and Guddi. Golden earrings were snatched from Usha and Shashi. Even two kids, 5-year old Vishal and 4-year old Ankush were not spared. They were beaten mercilessly.

13. Dharambir Singh, 45: Continuous blows of rifle butts and lathis were rained on our door and broken. When police stormed inside, my father Bhuliya Singh, who is 70, was gossiping with Rajpal of Kakrana village, while smoking hookah. The rampaging policemen beat my father mercilessly, now his condition is stated to be critical. Radio, lantern and chairs were smashed.

14. Anju, 24: Policemen constantly rained blows of rifle butts and lathis and broke upon the door. Rampaging policemen used lewd and abusive language. They broke the almirah and stole golden earring, silver anklet and waist chain. Rs. 11,000 was also robbed.

15. Bijender Singh, 24: 50-60 policemen broke upon the door and stormed inside the side. Incessant blows of lathis were rained on my mother, Shakuntala and my wife. Due to constant blows on my wife’s hips and legs, now she can’t even walk properly. Both of their gold earrings were snatched. My wife’s anklet, golden mangalsutra and Rs. 20,000 were looted from our house.

16. Sudha, 40: Persistent blows of rifle butts and lathis were rained on our front door and broken. Gold earrings of Sudha and Asha were stolen. Incessant blows of lathis were rained on Pramod’s head and he was given ten stitches.

17. Anita: Policemen broke the door and barged in. Scared of the rampaging policemen children had ran away from the house. Rs.10,000 had been stolen by breaking the cash box. I was beaten black and blue by the police.

18. Vidya, 70: 50-60 policemen stormed inside our house and destroyed the tractor. The tyres were punctured. All the utensils were broken. Raju, who is 17-year old and brother-in-law of my son, Davinder was driven out of the house and taken to custody.

19. Ruby, 30: 60 to 70 policemen broke our front door by raining blows of rifle butts and lathis. My co-sister, Mahima, who is deaf and dumb and widow was beaten mercilessly and thrown from the rooftop. A motorbike was smashed. While leaving the house they rained some blows on my co-sister, Kamlesh and me.

20. Shivdayal Singh, 83: Policemen barged in and started beating me mercilessly. Excruciating pain in my right limb still bears the mark of the brutal assault. 2 mobile phones put on the charger was robbed. The policemen looted Rs.1,57,000 collected for the Mahapanchayat. Mahapanchayat was scheduled on 8th July 2006 in which Mr. VP Singh, former Prime Minister was to address.

21. Shakuntala, 60: Fifty to sixty policemen stormed inside our house by breaking the door. Policemen thrashed me and my daughter-in-laws, Satho and Mamta. Satho’s gold earrings were snatched and Mamta’s gold chain was robbed. I am a widow and my 16-year old son, Bhojraj was driven away and taken to custody. While being taken to custody he was mercilessly beaten.

22. Pappu Sharma, 30: 20 to 30 policemen entered my house and started raining continuous lathi blows on head. I fell down and had to get six stitches for head injury. Gutka and cigarettes were stolen from my shop. I have also registered an FIR against the police atrocities perpetrated on us.

23. Bimlesh Sharma, 30: 30 to 40 policemen stormed inside our house. When they entered the house, they asked about my husband. I said that I am a widow. They did not believe me and pounced upon me, when I was cooking. Gold earrings and Rs. 1,000 were stolen away by the rampaging policemen. They rained incessant lathi blows on hips, back and arms. My left hand finger has been damaged in the brutal assault. Scared by the marauding troops, children ran away and hid themselves.

24. Shiela, 65: Policemen broke the doors and barged inside our house. Incessant blows of the lathis were rained on my right arm. They didn’t even spare my 67- year old sister, Kamala. Gold earrings were forcibly snatched fro our ears.

25. Rajesh, 40: Rampaging policemen broke the door and rained constant lathi blows on me. I was alone in the house as my husband lives in Pilkhuwa. They snatched away my earrings from. Continuous blows had injured my spine.

26. Urmila Devi: Forty to fifty policemen stormed inside our house and rained blows of rifle butts on the buffalo.

27. Poonam, 36: 20 to 30 policemen barged inside our house by breaking the door. They came and pounced upon me. I was performing puja. They caught me by hair and drove me out of the worship place. They robbed of my gold earring, anklet and smashed the wall clock. My 14-year son Ravindra Giri, who was sleeping in a cot, was taken to custody. My 80-year old father-in-law Ramjilal Giri was beaten mercilessly. Even the standing buffaloes were not spared.

28. Leela, 45: Fifty to sixty policemen broke the door and stormed inside our house. They went berserk. They snatched my grandson, Honey and started raining incessant blows of rifle butt on my shoulder and head. I fell on the ground and was unconscious for few minutes. The wound on my head was so severe, that the doctor gave 12 stitches. Under my right eye, you can still see a scar, which bears the mark of the brutal assault on us. My husband, Channo Singh, 50 was beaten mercilessly before being taken to custody.

29. Urmila,32: I was having my morning tea. Policemen entered the house by breaking the door. One policeman pounced on me and snatched my Mangalsutra and robbed of my gold chain. They stole Rs.5000, earrings, and anklet. Radio and deck was smashed. My 18-year old son Dinesh was taken to custody from Kunwar Pal’s house. While being taken to police station, he was assaulted brutally.

30. Rajwati, 45: Teargas was lobbed and nothing was visible. Policemen broke the door and entered the house. They went berserk and threw all the materials. Incessant blows of rifle butts were rained on me. Gold earrings of my daughter, Amrita and me were snatched away.

31. Kela Devi, 60: 50 to 60 policemen broke the door and barged inside. 14-year old Kamlesh, my son-in-law’s nephew was driven out from the house and taken to custody. Gold earrings and anklet of my daughter-in-law Munisha were snatched away at the gunpoint.

32. Malkhan Singh, 58: When policemen stormed inside the house, at that time, I was feeding my buffaloes. Then they asked me that was I part of the Dharna. I replied no. Even after my response they rained blows of lathis on my back, feet and arm. See I can’t even walk.

33. Ashrafi, 85: Policemen barged inside the house and broke the windowpane. Then they were going to rain lathi blows on my son, Omprakash Giri, who is paralytic patient and bedridden for many years. I pleaded to spare him. After that, they started beating me mercilessly. Incessant blows of rifle butts were rained on the head of my grandson, Vinod Giri, who is 24-year old. He was beaten outside the house. He had twelve stitches on the head.

34. Vimla, 40: Policemen failed to break open our iron gate. But they took away my 14-year old son, Monu to the custody.

35. Bugli, 50: Policemen broke the iron gate and barged inside. Incessant blows of lathi were rained on hip joints, shoulder and legs. Still there is excruciating pain. Even, they continuously brutally assaulted my daughter-in-law. She has suffered an internal injury over the head. Gold earrings were snatched away from my daughter-in-law and me.

36. Jaiprakash Giri, 63: 40 to 50 policemen rained blows of rifle butts and brick pieces to break open the door. When they entered my house they started beating me by hitting me with rifle butts. My left palm was fractured. Then they drove me to a PAC van. Then, I ran away and went hiding in the fields. My son, Mahendra Giri, who is a handicap, was mercilessly beaten. My wife, Dayawati, who is 60-year old, was beaten black and blue. Incessant blows were rained on her hip joints, now she is totally bedridden. My daughter-in-laws Rani and Resham were beaten mercilessly. Rani is physically challenged and Resham is pregnant. My 3-year old granddaughter, Anjali was thrown in the ground and blows of lathi were rained on her.

37. Manoj, 13: Policemen went berserk and smashed our Santro car HR-08-D-7600 by raining constant rifle butts and bricks. When I resisted then they caught hold of me and crushed middle finger of my right hand. Still there is excruciating pain in the bruised finger. Even they broke the headlight, filter tank, pump and battery of our tractor ISAR-312.

38. Omprakash Singh, 60: 50 to 60 policemen barged inside and broke the door. After storming inside, they started raining incessant blows on my back and I fell down. Then they broke the inside door and started constantly beating my 22-year old son, Anurag. He was beaten so badly that he was confined to his bed for 8 days. Even the policemen stole his Titan watch, which costs Rs. 1100. My other son, Davender’s TVS Victor motorbike UP-14-S 8323 headlight, indicator and tyre were punctured by sharp-edged weapon.

39. Kashmiri, 25: I was at rooftop, when the policemen barged inside by breaking open the door. Whatever food was prepared they split it in the ground. Then, they threw my 2-year old son, Saurav on the ground. You can see the bruises over his face. Broke open the other doors, then they rained blows of rifle butts on brick-laid roof. After that, they rained lathi blows on buffaloes, horse and the mule.

40. Manso, 65: 50 to 60 policemen, PAC jawans and plain cloth men rained rifle butts and broke our iron gate. When they stormed inside they went berserk and destroyed all the electric switches and smashed two plastic chairs. Then, they broke the door of our shop and rained lathi blows on our buffaloes and horse. Scared by the policemen running amok I went into hiding along with my grandchildren in other room. In other room my daughter-in-law holed up. In the darkness, they barged inside the room and stole my son’s new trouser and Rs.5,000.

41. Sukhbir Prajapati, 50: Policemen stormed inside my house and rained blows of rifle butts on my tractor. They broke the steering, air and battery of the tractor. They went berserk and rained incessant blows of lathis on my 17-year old son, Dharmi and drove out of the house and put him behind the bar.

42. Ratno, 65: Policemen barged inside by breaking the door. Scared by the rampaging policemen, I rushed to the other room, where they stormed inside and started raining incessant blows on my chest and arms. Constantly, they showered blows on his back, thigh and shoulder. They did not even spare my 68-year old husband, Buddhan Singh. He was beaten mercilessly and when he being driven out for taking him to custody. Then, my daughter’s sons, Deepak and Kuldip started crying. Policemen rained blows of lathis on them also. Fearing reprisals from policemen, we didn’t go to any Government hospital or dispensary.

43. Harichand, 55: Policemen broke upon the door and stormed inside our house. Using abusive language they asked that why we are not vacating the land after being paid the compensation. Then they started raining continuous blows on my shoulder, back, thigh and legs. Caught hold of me by neck and threw me in the ground.

44. Bhikhan Prajapati, 85: Policemen broke upon the door by raining blows of lathis and rifle butts. Then they pounced on me and thrashed mercilessly. I have excruciating pain on my back and wrist of my left hand has been fractured.

45. Shoma, 39: When I busy cooking food, all of a sudden policemen broke the door and barged in. Then, they ran amok and started showering blows of lathis on my shoulder and hip joints. Our scooter DL-25-25 and motorbike UP-14R-8210 were smashed by the marauding troop. They looted my mangalsutra and gold earring. Even they stole my daughter-in-law’s waist chain, 3 rings, pendent and gold chain. They broke the CD player and music deck.

46. Surinder Singh, 45: Policemen and PAC jawans broke the door and smashed the window screen of a Maruti car UP-14M-2570 and destroyed the motorbike UP-14-AC-8149. Even they damaged the wall clock. They looted Rs.20,000 by breaking the safe box.

47. Gopal Singh, 50: Policemen broke upon the door and they stormed inside. They showered continuous blows of lathi on my thigh. Still the mark on my thigh bears testimony to this fact.

48. Nimala, 24: Policemen broke the iron gate and barged inside the house. I have a 10-day old son and 2-year old daughter. Policemen caught hold of my daughter and broke her limb. Then, they threw on the ground. They broke the cashbox and stole Rs.10,000, golden chain. They pushed my elder sister-in-law and in that process she was hurt and her index finger of the left arm was fractured. Incessant blows of rifle butt were rained on his left arm.

49. Basanti, 55: Police broke the door and stormed inside and robbed me of gold earring.

50. Yashvir Giri, 35: Policemen barged inside our house and pounced on the buffalo, broke the television and smashed the scooter. Continuous blows of lathis were rained on my 13-year old son. He was driven out and pushed behind the bar. They inside the other room broke quality about that. Blows of lathis were rained on my wife. Her gold earring, mangalsutra and anklet were stolen.

51. Makhanlal, 65: Policemen stormed inside our house and rained blows of rifle butts on my left elbow. The deep cut on my left elbow is taking a serious turn.

52. Nand Kishore, 50: Policemen barged inside the house by breaking the door. Rampaging policemen accompanied by hired goons smashed by Maruti car and looted jewellery from my almirah worth lakhs of rupees.

53. Udaiveer, 60: Policemen and goons entered the house and rained blows of lathi on me. You can see the black spots on my thigh and back, which are visible marks of assault on me. Policemen pounced on me when I was taking breakfast. Police beat up my son Jagdish, 18 and fractured his leg. Another son Chander Mohan, 16, was beaten up severely and taken into custody. They looted gold chain and Rs. 10,000 from our house.

54. Kunwarpal Singh: Policemen broke open the iron gate by raining continuous blows of rifle butts. Broke 100 Pepsi bottles, showered incessant blows of lathis on me and I fell on the ground. I was unconscious. Entered the house and broke the cash box looted Rs.50,000 and all the gold and silver ornaments. They drove out my two sons beating them indiscriminately to the custody.

Role of the State
The UP police and the state administration emerge as highly culpable in the incident of brutal assault, looting, smashing properties, framing false cases and indiscriminate firing on 8th July 2006.

Role of the Police
On 8th July 2006, Police and its accomplices (in plain clothes) surrounded the Bejhera Khurd village, broke the doors by raining rifle butts, mercilessly beat women, infants, young and old, looted ornaments and stole their money. We condemn police, PAC and armed goons, which went berserk at Bejhera Khurd by perpetrating brutalities over women, children and the old. Police are not accustomed to speak politely and behave in a dignified manner. The political interference in the matter of police have made them behaving like criminals. It is not unusual that when there are act of violence and highhandedness, charges are often levelled against Policemen for stealing and looting the money and gold-silver ornaments of the communities they raid. Bejhera Khurd was no exception as according to the villagers when police raided the village, beat up the villagers, a large number of their fellowmen were looting the ornaments and breaking the walls.

Role of the District Administration
The District administration has overtly or covertly colluded with the guilty police, PAC personnel and armed militia. It has been assiduously trying to shield them. The Chief Minister has shown its contempt for public opinion by not even offering its regret to the injured and the farmers. The very first action which was to be taken by it in the wake of the 8th July’s brutal assault on the Bejhera Khurd villagers was to order an impartial investigation to pin down the guilty and release the villagers against whom false cases have been framed. This suggests that the local administration is in complicity with the guilty police, PAC personnel and armed goons.

The fact that demands an independent CBI investigation into the brutal assault on the Bejhera Khurd villagers. A judicial inquiry is also called for to punish the guilty. As reported earlier, the district and state administration is working hand in glove with M/s Reliance Energy of Anil Ambani group. District magistrate has actually warned people of dire consequences if they continue with their Dharna and protests. It is ironical that the administration has not asked police any show cause notices and none of them have been held accountable. Contrary to the same, agitating farmers have been charged with various cases. It clearly reflects the malafide intentions of the state government.

How Justice Bhalla acted to serve Reliance?

On the evening of 7th July 2006, Reliance Energy filed a writ Petition in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, seeking full police bandobast against the villagers. Despite this petition being filed well after court hours, and that the Lucknow Bench had no jurisdiction to hear this case, since only the Allahabad Bench had territorial jurisdiction to hear this matter, the Senior Judge, Justice Jagdish Bhalla directed that a special bench of Justice Bhanwar Singh and Justice S.N. Shukla would hear the matter at their residence, even though the petition had not even been numbered. Late that night, a hearing was held at the residence of one of the judges of this unnumbered petition. Aarohi Bhalla, the son of Justice Jagdish Bhalla appeared for Reliance. The petition was allowed that very night without notice and the State and police were directed to " provide all possible State protection to the petitioner company".

Armed with this order, the police resorted to a massive lathi charge on the protesting farmers and did not even allow former Prime Minister V.P. Singh to reach there. The manner in which the Lucknow Bench proceeded to hear this matter late at night when they did not even have territorial jurisdiction and where the son of the senior judge appeared before the judiciary shows the remarkable way in which the Company obtained the said order.

Why the Uttar Pradesh Government gives undue favour to Reliance?
Answering to a query on this issue, Naresh Agarwal, Power Minister, UP, said in the Assembly that the Rs 150 per square yard rate was fixed after the farmers in Dadri endorsed. According to the minister, 2,173 acre of land has been acquired from the farmers and 165 acre of Gram Sabha’s land. Further he said that work is afoot to acquire the rest of the land meant for the project. The MLA Munna Singh Chauhan, sought clarifications from the minister that why favouritism was to reliance in disbursing 2500 acre in contrase to the Tatas asked for 350 acres for the power plant. Clearly it shows, according to the MLA, the UP Government was giving undue patronage to Reliance by dispossessing the farmers.

The Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had declared in a public meeting that the rates for the land per square yard would be Rs 310 This fact has been confirmed by the former Prime Minister VP Singh, that the UP Chief Minister had promised to him the same when he visited the former PM. In a letter written to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 11th of August 2006, the former PM drew his attention on the Dadri project. Mr. VP Singh wrote, “the Uttar Pradesh Government had acquired 2500 acres of highly productive agricultural land for the ostensibly ‘public purpose’ for infrastructure development namely, to set up a gas based thermal power plant near Dadri in Ghaziabad. Nobody would question the need to augment the generation of power supply in the power-starved state. But what is most questionable is the way in which the government of UP has been acting at the behest of and for the benefit of one corporate house flouting all norms of propriety and prudence.”

The former PM also questioned as why ‘no competitive bid were called for before deciding in favour of one particular corporate house. He charged that for the said corporate house the cost of the land has been ‘virtually subsidised to the extent of 60%. More worrisome was why such a vast tract of fertile land was needed for the power plant and why no work has yet started on the project site’.

Further he ‘demanded a national moratorium for six month and immediate halt to the process of any further land acquisition, dispossession, demolition and displacement. The constituting of a high-level commission comprising of eminent persons is still pending. The task of the commission, should be to lay down a new comprehensive policy and set up an effective mechanism to ensure the protection of the right and interest of the affected people not as a post factor formality but as a necessary precondition to the initiation/resumption of work on projects including those related to urban renewal and development.’

Shamelessly, the Uttar Pradesh Government disregarded all the norms of democratic behaviour and used a judicial order to thwart any public meeting in Bejhera Khurd. Even when the meeting for 17th August, 2006 organised by Dehat Morcha, Jan Morcha and alliance groups was to be held at Dadri, just 18 kilometres from Bejhera Khurd, the state government deployed all its forces to foil the struggle and not allow people to assemble. Since morning when people started assembling to participate in the meeting, they were obstructed. Farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait and others were arrested when they started from Muzaffarnagar. Border areas of district Ghaziabad were sealed and heavy police forces were deployed. The traffic from Bulandshahar to Ghaziabad and greater Noida was blocked.

One needs to ask a question whether the farmers have a minimum right to register their protest. Do political formations have a right to organise a protest meet. At the Delhi-Ghaziabad border, VP Singh was arrested along with his comrades.

Bejhera issue has again highlighted the danger of ‘corporate’ terror unleashed on the poor fighting for their right. It also shows how state apparatus surrender meekly to their political masters who have been openly working with ‘corporate’ houses. That most of these projects are being handed over to corporate houses without calling for any competitive bid is a matter of grave concern. Often, the votaries of market economy and liberalisation mention that market mean openness and end to licence quota raj. If one see the project approved in Uttar-Pradesh and other parts of India, it reflect another kind of licence quota raj when the power elite behave hand in glove with the corporate. We need to ask why powerhouse constructions need 2,500 acres of land. Where in the world have we seen such huge land acquisition? Clear enough, those in power want to strip the people from whatever little resources they have with them. India needs a clear guideline on Special Economic Zone projects. Why the state is not only subsidizing big powerful corporate houses hugely in their land purchase but also given a long tax holiday. Such subsidies at the cost of the farmers, workers must stop at once and government must understand that it was voted to power against the economic policies of the previous government. Disarming people from their land and water rights is the biggest crime and the governments must be ready to face the crisis born out as a result of these circumstances.

We demand,

1. To constitute a high power committee including members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), technical experts, farmer leaders, academicians, to find out how much exactly is needed for a 3000 MW power plant and which are the companies working in this field so that a competitive bid could be invited. Bids could also be invited from the state owned power companies operational in different states.

2. Till High Power Committee comes to a conclusion, no further acquisition should take place. The farmers must get their land back. However, UP Government working in behest of Reliance should not force farmers, who are not keen to sell their land.

3. Government must acquire non-irrigated land or wasteland in lieu of fertile land for power plant.

4. Government must be transparent enough for making open its deal with Reliance Energy. Has the Government fixed any penalty for delaying its construction? Has there been any conditions laid down for land use if Reliance does not make a power plant under any pretext what would government do?

5. Dismiss all policemen responsible for brutal assault on villagers of Bejhera Khurd on 8th July 2006.

6. Institute an independent inquiry under a sitting judge of High Court to investigate into the lapses of district administration in Dadri and its adjacent villages as well as on the issues of farmers and their rehabilitation.

7. Give full compensation to the farmers or their family members, who were either injured in the police firing or whose houses were ransacked. Compensation for their vehicles, household items, gold ornaments and cash looted by police force should be returned back immediately.

8. The Central Government must come out with a comprehensive rehabilitation policy. There should be a clear-cut guideline for Special Economic Zones and every state must follow central guidelines before signing any treaty with a private party.

9. Investigate how Chief Justice of Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court appoint a two judges bench at haste to hear the case and allow his son to file the case on behalf of Reliance Energy. The Supreme Court must look into this matter and take necessary action.

10. The High-power Committee must probe into how the goons hired by private company to unleash a reign of terror in the village. The nexus between the hired goons, the state’s ruling party and administration must be exposed and action should be taken to make administrative machinery fully unbiased, responsible and accountable.

11. To find out, as how much does Reliance Energy show the cost of the land for its bank loan. Whether it is the same as per compensation given to the farmers for Rs 150 per square yard.

ANNEXURES


People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014