Explained: Who are the Punjab and Haryana peasants fighting the legal battle for land in Kutch?

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya, edited by Explained Desk | Ahmedabad |

Updated: December 15, 2020 20:45:25





On Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi interacted with farmers in Kutch, including those in Punjab, during his visit to the border district to lay the foundations for several projects. (Source: Twitter / @ ANI)

A group of farmers from Kutch, originally from Punjab and Haryana and who have settled here, are involved in a legal battle with the Gujarat government over their agricultural land. The controversy dates back to 2010, when many farmers were told that their land records were being frozen because they were not native to Gujarat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was then the prime minister of the state.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi interacted with farmers in Kutch, including those in Punjab, during his visit to the border district to lay the foundations for several projects.

Who are the farmers fighting a legal land battle in Kutch?

A group of around 60 Kutch farmers have fought a legal battle over the past decade to keep their agricultural land. These farmers are mostly natives of Punjab and Haryana, who bought the land or received it via government assignment. However, noting that because they were not originally from Gujarati, the state government froze the records of their land and about 700 other farmers in Kutch. Of the total 784 farmers whose land registers have been frozen, 245 are from Punjab and Haryana. The rest comes from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Most of them are Sikhs.

How did they get to Kutch?

During the 1965 India-Pakistan war, the Pakistani army had managed to enter Kutch. After the war, however, then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri proposed populating the border areas in the district to make the border more secure. The government has incentivized settlements in Kutch by allocating land to people and distributing cash subsidies to help them buy oxen, etc. In response, a considerable number of families from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra came to Kutch. The state government awarded land to a total of 550 individuals between 1965 and 1984. Of them, 390 were Sikhs, some of whom came to Punjab after the split. They started using the groundwater to irrigate crops in Kutch and brought a revolution in agriculture to this semi-arid district. The relatives and friends of these early migrants were followed up as the land in Kutch is abundant (Kutch covers 45,000 square kilometers and thus represents 23% of the total geographic area of ​​Gujarat) and relatively cheap. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

What did the Gujarat government do in 2010?

On October 22, 2010, the Kutch collector served notices to 784 farmers, informing them that their land records were being frozen as they were not eligible to hold land in Gujarat because they were not native to Gujarat. The government cited a 1973 circular stating that only native Gujaratis can purchase agricultural land in the state. The freezing of the records of their land meant that the owners of such land could not sell them or transfer them in the name of their heirs through rumors of mutation. Furthermore, forms 7-12 and 8-A of the registration of such land were provided with the knights, making their owners ineligible to take advantage of the bank loan, etc. In short, the freeze meant that no third party interest could be created in the land. The 784 land accounts included those to which land was assigned by the government. The land registers of 52 farmers who could prove it through documents that legally held the land allotted by the government were subsequently thawed.

Where is the legal struggle now?

After the courts of the tax authorities, the matter went to the High Court of Gujarat (HC). In July 2011, a single HC court ruled in favor of the state government, but farmers challenged the verdict in a larger court. In June 2012, the largest bank in the HC ruled in favor of the farmer. Therefore, the state government appealed to the Supreme Court in 2012 with a special permission petition, praying that no third party interest would be created in the land in question. CS granted that prayer. However, the government petition against the Gujarat HC ruling is still pending.

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