Minorities in Gujarat victimised, Sikh farmers tell SC

Chandigarh: Accusing Chief Minister Narendra Modi of “terrorising, browbeating, intimidating and victimising the minorities in Gujarat,” Punjabi farmers settled in the state have claimed before the Supreme Court that the prevailing law only prohibits non-agriculturists from buying land in Gujarat.

In a statement filed before the Supreme Court, they have claimed that the Agricultural Land (Vidharba Region and Kutch Area) Act, 1958, “nowhere says that agriculturists from other states cannot buy land in Gujarat”.

The 22-page statement also refers to an editorial carried in The Tribune on August 5 titled “Uprooted in Gujarat, Modi fixes farmers from Punjab” in an attempt to substantiate their contention.

The statement by Preethi Singh, Mukand Singh and other farmers was filed on Monday afternoon through barrister-at-law Himmat Singh Shergill in response to an appeal before the Supreme Court by the District Collector, Kutch, and others.

This is, perhaps, the first time that the farmers have made clear their stand before the Supreme Court by referring to the legal issues. Already, the decision to evict farmers of others states, including Sikh farmers cultivating land in Kutch for decades, has stirred up politics. In Punjab, the Congress is using the issue as a plank to embarrass the ruling SAD-BJP alliance. The party has dubbed Modi as “anti-minority” leader. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, on the other hand, has been insisting that the Congress government preceding the Modi regime was responsible for the eviction of Punjabi families.

Referring to the provisions of the Act, Shergill has asserted that any Indian agriculturist can buy land and carry out farming in Gujarat. The law on the issue was crystal clear and there was no specific exclusion of farmers from Punjab or other parts of India from buying land in Gujarat.

“Section 89 of the Act has only barred non-agriculturists from buying land…. The precondition for buying land is that the person has to be an agriculturist. If the intention of the legislature was that agriculturists from other states cannot buy land in Gujarat, this should have specifically been a part of the Act”.

He has claimed that the very subsistence of the Sikh farmers is at stake as they have been refused farm loans by financial institutions in the wake of the controversy. “The farmers are being forced to live a life of uncertainty, poverty and stress. Several deaths have taken place ever since their accounts were illegally frozen in 2010 by the Gujarat Government,” Shergill contended.

Going into the background of the issue, he said that farmers from Punjab started buying land in Kutch after the 1965 Indo-Pak war on the invitation of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri as he wanted the area to be “well-inhabited”.

Seeking the dismissal of the appeal with costs, Shergill said “gross injustice has been done to the respondents as they are, prima facie, not hit by Section 89 Act, which specifically barred only non-agriculturists from buying Land in Gujarat”.

Source: The Tribune

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