New Delhi: Amid a controversy over alleged eviction of Sikhs from agricultural land in Gujarat`s Kutch, a group of "affected" farmers on Monday dismissed claims that the community was being targeted by the state government.
"We want to make it clear that Sikh farmers are not being targeted in Kutch. We are living in peace and in harmony with other communities there," said Jugraj Singh, a sarpanch from the region who is leading a farmers delegation from there.
He also refuted charges that they were under any kind of pressure. "The Gujarat government has at no time put any kind of pressure on the community," Singh told reporters.
The matter relates to the land records of the Sikh farmers being taken over by the Gujarat government by invoking the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1958, which the farmers claimed disabled them from selling, buying or availing of any loan or subsidy for their lands.
While the Gujarat High Court has given a judgement favouring the farmers, the state government has challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court. The state government had started issuing notices to freeze land in 2003 and started taking their possession since 2010.
Singh said the Sikhs were not alone whose land records were frozen. He said that of the 784 land records frozen, 153 belonged to the farmers who came from Punjab. He said the 88 land records belonged to the farmers of Gujarat and 543 belonged to other states such as Rajasthan, Haryana etc.
"Our land records have been frozen but we have not been displaced and the Sikh community continues to farm land without any hindrance," he said.
The Sikh farmers had settled in Kutch region after the 1965 India-Pakistan war. The displacement issue has stirred a controversy with the Congress attacking the BJP over the plight of the Sikh farmers. Several Congress MPs from Punjab and Haryana had also approached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here in August.
Modi had in August assured his Punjab counterpart Parkash Singh Badal about the welfare of the farmers.