50 detained as farmers protest proposed coal plant in Gujarat

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AHMEDABAD: About 50 farmers were detained by the police on Sunday as hundreds protested the move of a Gujarat government company to take possession of land at a village in Bhavnagar district for a proposed lignite plant.
The local head of a farmers’ group alleged that police manhandled protesters, including women and children, resulting in injuries to at least five people. Some media accounts, however, say 10 people were injured.
The Gujarat Power Corporation Limited had acquired 3,377 acres from nearly 1,250 farmers across 12 villages under Ghogha taluka in Bhavnagar about two decades ago to set up a lignite plant.
However, all these years, the land remained in the possession of farmers who were cultivating it. The farmers have now been opposing the company’s bid to take possession of the acquired land.
The company had sought police protection to take possession of the land when the clash erupted, Bhavnagar superintendent of police Dipankar Trivedi said.
“We detained around 50 people and fired about 50 teargas shells, and also baton-charged protesters near Badi village,” he said.
Narendrasinh Gohil, a local farmer leader and member of Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a cultivators’ body, claimed that the farmers were carrying out a peaceful protest.
“As we were carrying out a peaceful protest march against the company’s move to take possession of our land, a large number of policemen tried to obstruct us. The farmers and their families, including women and children, came out in thousands to protest. Police manhandled protesters, including women and children, and in the process, at least five people were injured,” Gohil said, adding that at least 10 out of the 50 protesters detained by police were women.
The protesters have demanded the company to initiate fresh proceedings to acquire the contentious land as per the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. This was the third time farmers resisted the company’s move to take possession of the land.
Farmers from the affected villages had earlier filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court against the move, saying the company will have to initiate a fresh procedure to acquire the land, as per section 24(2) of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013.
The Act states that an agency will have to initiate a new procedure to acquire land if it did not take its possession for more than five years after acquiring it.