The Kanpur district magistrate (DM) on Thursday assured a group of around 500 Bharatiya Kissan Union (BKU), holed up in a dharamshala, of “no action” and asked them to leave for their respective villages. The police, however, spoke in a different tone.
“Our policemen were brutally assaulted. Eighteen of them were severely injured while others too suffered minor injuries. We will not let anyone go without initiating action,” Akash Kulhari, SSP Kanpur, told The Indian Express. According to local intelligence, the protesters were armed with bamboo sticks and other weapons inside the Janki Devi Dharamshala.
According to Additional District Magistrate (Kanpur) Sanjay Chauhan, “The administration has formed a committee to find solutions for the compensation hike of the farmers along with giving them skill development training and some community development programmes in their villages.”
The protesters, however, said they would only leave after all FIRs against them were dropped.
The workers, led by district BKU chief Niranjan Rajpute, have been occupying the building since November 21.
Surrounded by his men in a room in the dharamshala Rajpute claimed they had initially protested against land acquisition in their villages for a power plant. On November 21, around 200 farmers, including Rajpute, from eight villages in Ghatampur, tried to meet the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) with a list of demands.
“He did not listen to us. We decided to protest here at Janki Devi Dharamshala. Others joined me. When no one listened to us, we decided to air our grievance with the CM who was in Hamirpur on December 15. At the rally, police thrashed us and we had no choice but to climb the stage,” said Niranjan Rajpute from a room of the dharmshala surrounded by workers wielding bamboos.
Hamirpur police, on the same day, filed a case against Niranjan and several others under relevant sections of the IPC, including under the Criminal Law Amendment Act for causing disruption to government. Five policemen too were suspended for failing to check the protesters.
On December 18, when police teams of Hamirpur and Kanpur raided the dharamshala to arrest the accused, the workers attacked them.
Vishekha Rajpute, the BKU women wing president from Hamirpur, claimed, “Vey Humare Neta Hain. Unko Koi hath bhi lagaye to jane nahi denge. (He [Rajpute] is our leader. We won’t allow them to touch him).” The protesters there claimed they had sharp weapons and country-made pistols to “defend themselves”.
A loudspeaker atop the dharamshala blares warnings at police personnel whoare camping just 300 metres away.
“When they had came to aquire our land, we were promised four times its worth and a job to one of family member. We haven’t gotten either,” said Brijlal, one of the farmers protesting at the dharamshala.