Over 5,000 people in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, battling against the acquisition of land by a state power utility, have written letters to authorities seeking permission to die, a farmers’ body leader today claimed. “A total of 5,259 people, comprising farmers and their family members from 12 affected villages, have sought “icchha mrityu (right to die) as the land they cultivate is being forcibly snatched by the state government and Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL),” claimed Narendrasinh Gohil, a local farmer and a member of Gujarat Khedut Samaj, an organisation fighting for farmers’ rights. He claimed that the letters, signed by these farmers and their kin, have been sent to the President of India, the Prime Minister and the chief minister of Gujarat.
Harshad Patel, Collector, Bhavnagar, said that the farmers had dropped these letters, in which they have demanded permission for “icchha mrityu”, at the registry branch of the collectorate. The registry branch receives and dispatches all the letters of the collectorate. In the letter, the farmers accused the state government, and GPCL, of using police force to get them to vacate the land which the farmers claimed was being tilled by them for several years now. The farmers alleged that GPCL was trying to possess the land more than 20 years after the power firm had acquired it, adding that such a move was against the law. “As per the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, a company cannot take possession of a land which it had acquired more than five years ago. To possess such a land, it will have to initiate the process of acquisition afresh,” Gohil said. “On two occasions, the police have fired teargas on a peaceful gathering of farmers.
We are being threatened and bullied by the government,” Gohil alleged. He added that the district administration has imposed section 144 of the CrPC, a provision prohibiting any assembly of persons the authorities term unlawful, in the 12 villages since over a month now. “GPCL and Gujarat government want to usurp our land, despite the land legally belonging to the farmers. What shall we do in such a situation? If we do not have cultivable land, we shall be as good as dead,” the letter claimed. The farmers, in their letter, said that the “forcible acquisition” of land was making them feel like “terrorists” and, therefore, they would like to be killed by bullets fired by Army personnel. “We wish for this because we have been made to feel like terrorists by the authority. So my last wish is to be killed at the hands of the Army,” the farmers said in the letters.