Over 70 Dalits at Ghrachon village of Sangrur district have been sitting on dharna on the uncultivated panchayat land since May 20 after panchayat land reserved for them was auctioned to dummy candidates.
The Dalits form nearly 50 per cent of the 5,000 votes in the villages, and 48 acres of land is reserved for them. While over 170 Dalit families wanted to take this land on an annual lease to do group farming, they alleged that five families from the village were fielded as dummy candidates and got the annual lease for the current financial year, reported The Indian Express.
Under the banner of Zamin Prapati Sangrash Committee (ZPSC), the Dalits have come together to protest.
"Last year, our Dalit families had done group farming, but this time at the behest of Congress leader of village, Dalit dummy candidates were fielded. One patch of 18 acres of land was auctioned at a reserve price of Rs 20,000 an acre while the rest 30 acres were auctioned at Rs 55,000 per acre. I wonder how five families who took this land have got so much money. We want our share of land back," Gurmukh Singh, union leader of ZPSC, told the media.
He added that on Sunday, July 26, they entered the 68th day of their protest. Meanwhile, on Friday, a large number of the protesters had gathered at the grain market of Sangrur, defying COVID-19 guidelines, and staged a dharna. Following this, An FIR under the Disaster Management Act was lodged against over 60 people, including Mukesh Malaud, president of ZPSC, and members Gurmukh Singh and Bikkar Singh.
"What can we do when we are not being heard? in the garb of corona, they are not even allowing us to protest. We have been living on agricultural land for the past 68 days. Is the government serious about this issue? They forced us to hold a large protest rally on Friday," Gurmukh said.
In the village, 144 acres of panchayat land goes for auction every year, of which, 48 acres are reserved for Dalits.
"Land reserved for Dalits should not be auctioned at a rate as high as Rs 55,000 an acre. Such things happen when landlords field dummy candidates. Next year, Rs 55,000 will become reserved price, which is not justified," said Bikkar.
Meanwhile, Sangrur Deputy Commissioner Ramvir said that everything happened in a "fair manner."
"We are in talks with them. There are two groups of Dalits; one group has taken it on an annual lease. Now an angle of dummy candidates has been added which is not true. Everything happened in a fair manner," Ramvir said, adding that they are trying to resolve the issue through talks.Also Read: Maharashtra: Farmers Pour Milk On Streets In Protest As Milk Prices Fall