Congress to make Gujarat Sikh farmers’ eviction a poll issue

New Delhi: To make it hard for the BJP and its trusted ally, the SAD, the Congress has decide to make the forced eviction of Sikh farmers from Kutch by the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat Government a poll issue.

The Congress today decided to moot a law in its Lok Sabha poll manifesto to prevent such forced eviction by the governments in power. The 2014 Lok Sabha manifesto was discussed at length at a meeting with focus on issues facing the minorities. The last such meeting had addressed the problems of SCs and STs.

There was unanimity on the need for a legal mechanism to prevent such eviction as seen in Gujarat.

“Legitimate places of residence and livelihood cannot be taken away by governments on technical grounds. There has to be a mechanism in place to prevent such forced migration, the kind we witnessed in Gujarat where Sikh farmers suffered at the hands of the Modi Government,” said a Congress source, adding that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi favoured such a law.

Sikh farmers from Punjab and Haryana were invited after the 1965 war to settle in Kutch. Three years ago, the Modi Government froze the land holding of 1,000 farmers, citing the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948.

This law prohibits the sale of agriculture land in Gujarat to people who are not traditional agriculturists. The development led to panic among the 5,000 Sikh farmers in the region.

Although recently the Gujarat Government decided to remove the freeze on the land holding of 52 such farmers pending the decision of the Supreme Court (Modi Government has moved the SC against the state High Court order favouring farmers), the Congress does not want the noose round the BJP-SAD alliance to loosen. “The issue is still relevant and was raised by Sikh participants at today’s open manifesto meeting,” party leaders.

Former Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, told The Tribune: “There was a demand by the Sikh community for a legal mechanism to prevent such forced eviction as seen in Gujarat. We are for a law to prevent forced migration not just of minority but also majority community in future and our manifesto will reflect that.”

Source: The Tribune

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