Azamgarh Villagers Protest Against Seizing of 670 Acres of Land to Construct International Airport  

Date:

Harsh Thakor

THESE days Azamgarh is in the process of constructing an International airport at Manduri, with the Modi-Yogi government endorsing a dream project. For the last seventy-two days, 670 acres of land in eight villages of Khiria Bagh is in the process of being snatched by the government for the construction of an international airport. This has invited a strong resurgence from the inhabitants of the area. Perfect illustration of how the current BJP regime is leaving no stone unturned in promoting the objectives of globalisation, which paves way for one sided or unbalanced development in favour of the exploiter classes.

15 years ago in the year 2007 Mulayam Singh Yadav inaugurated the airstrip. In the year 2017 the Yogi government came in Uttar Pradesh and inaugurated the airport.

It is startling that till date no air flight has been undertaken from here. The acquired land now has replaced paddy-wheat in a field with, an office with kush and shrubs is visible.

The government harbours a dream that it will convert the so-called airport into an international airport.

It is condemnable that till date no notice has been issued to the villagers. According to the newspapers, the villages north of Manduri Four Lane have ben captured and villagers persuaded to shift towards villages in Sothern areas.

Repression on Villagers and Protest

On 12-13 November 2022, at 1-2 o’clock in the night, Deputy Collector Sagdi, many revenue workers, policemen, P.S.C. barged along to undertake a survey.

The villagers resolutely affirmed that under no condition did they wish to part with their land, so there was no justification for any land survey. The representatives of the administration started beating the villagers throwing obscene, casteist abuses.

The villagers have made an unconditional demand that the acquisition of land and houses should be scrapped in the name of expansion.

Sunita Bharti aged 22 years, Phoolmati 50 years old, Prabhadevi 40 years old, Gyanmati 50 years old received injuries and villagers Rahul Rajbhar, Vinod Rajbhar, Indrajit Rajbhar, Vikas Rajbhar etc. were held in police custody for 24 hours and charged on grounds of  section 151 of the Indian Penal Code.

This incident created tremors in the hearts of the villagers who apprehend that disaster is forthcoming.

For  70 days, a peaceful dharna was organised in Khiria Ki Bagh of Jamua Hariram village. Exhibiting relentless spirit, the villagers of Gadanpur, Hichchanpatti, Jigina Karmanpur, Jamua Hariram, Jamua Jolha, Hasanpur, Kadipur Harikesh, Jehra Pipri, Manduri, Baldev Manduri villages of Azamgarh unite and stageg a dharna.

They demanded that the master plan for expansion of Manduri airport should be withdrawn and the culprits on the night of 12-13 October 2022, should be brought to the book by conducting a judicial inquiry into the harassment of women and villagers by the administration.

The District Magistrate should come to the site and grant an assurance in writing that there will be no acquisition of land and houses.

The action of police harassment and the question of saving land and houses spurred the  people of the area to express  solidarity.

Support to Movement

The movement has garnered the support of the people of the region as well as the agitators of the United Kisan Morcha. The district committee of United Kisan Morcha supported United Kisan Morcha (East U.P.) and then secured the support of United Kisan Morcha (U.P.).

Farmer leaders associated with United Kisan Morcha include Rakesh Tikait, Jagtar Singh Bajwa, Chaudhary Rajendra, Rajveer Singh Jadaun, Bharat Singh, Gurnam Singh Chandhuni of Punjab, Poonam Pandit, Balwant Yadav, Raghavendra ji, Shivaji Rai, Brijesh Azad, Ravindranath Rai, Dan Bahadur Due to Maurya, Tej Bahadur, Ramraj, Subedar Yadav, Virendra Yadav, Nandlal, Bachau Ram, Rajneesh Bharti, Vedprakash Upadhyay, Ramashray Yadav, Vinod Singh, Jayprakash Narayan, Arvind Bhartiya

Slogans like ‘Kaun banata Hindustan’, ‘Bharat ka Mazdoor Kisan’ are daily resounded.

In support of the movement, Medha Patekar of National Coordination of People’s Movements (NAPM), Arundhati Dhruv, Dr. Muniza Rafiq Khan of Citizen for Justice and Peace, Kusum Verma of AIPWA, Aparna Srivastava, Ramji Yadav threw their support.

The support of Chitra Sahatrabuddhe, Laxman Yadav, Sunil Sahatrabuddhe, Bhagat Singh Student Front, All India Progressive Students Forum, Madhadkash Mukti Morcha etc. from Varanasi’s Lokvidya Peeth elevated the protest of Azamgarh airport to the country-state level.

Martyrdom of villagers

10 people have succumbed to heart attack or high blood pressure due to pulsating pressure in 70 days. The leaders associated with the farmer’s movement offered their condolences to the bereaved family members.

The family members explained the causes of these deaths, stating how being deprived of land disillusionment with gloomy prospects ahead, fear, anxiety took the toll of their lives.

Deepak Sharma, a 32-year-old youth of Jigina village, was a regular activist in the movement, but due to the fear and anxiety of snatching the land, succumbed to  a heart attack on the night of 22-23 November 2022.

65 year old Suvash Upadhyay, a strong supporter of the 65-year-old movement, died of a heart attack on 11th December 2022. He presided over the dharna for a day.

In the same way other activists were martyrted like Jawahir Yadav (Jigana Karmanpur), Lallan Ram (Gadanpur Hichchanpatti), Badha Ram (Jamua Hariram), Sita Devi wife Jeetau Ram (Jamua Hariram), Deepak Sharma (Jigana), Gulab Chand, (Hasanpur). The inconsolable loss of Shivcharan Ram (Jamua) is permanently embedded in memories of activists.

The farmer-labour leaders decided that we will wage a battle to the very last straw to register such deaths in the annals of martyrdoms of our movement and to compensate for their irreparable loss.

The memory of these martyrs has been made an integral part of the banner of the protest site.

That’s why the farmer-labour leaders decided that we will register such deaths in the martyrdoms of our movement and strengthen our resolve to make up for their irreparable loss.

Positive trends of agitation

Noteworthy that, labour-peasant leaders, intellectuals, social-political workers of the country have rallied in support. Progressive that this movement is fermenting by tooth and nail opposing the acquisition of land and houses for the purpose of elevating compensation or rehabilitation. Men, women, old people and children of these villages are refusing to bow down to the process of land acquisition.

Notable that people of the region spontaneously rose to the hour against land grabbing. When the spontaneous movement fell into hands of one or two individuals, then the United Front was formed to bind the movement confronting individualism and promoting collectivism and democratic working style.

The hidden contradictions sprouting on mutual caste, religious, party divisions (which break and weaken the movement) were also confronted at the core.

There was a mutual agreement among the people that important other contradictions had to be tackled and resolved while preserving unity on the land question.

Most praiseworthy to witness such resilience of the villagers who gauge the notorious anti-people long term strategy of such a project and is part and parcel of the broader movements challenging land displacement. Progressive to witness unity of landed farmers with agricultural workers. It has given the people an insight into how the so called development is rooted in destroying people’s welfare.

_____________

Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India. The article is taken from Counter Currents.

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