After the Punjab unit of the Congress, in separate letters, urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to intervene and prevent the "forcible eviction" of Sikh families by the Gujarat government, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Thursday swung into action and slammed Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for the plight of Sikh farmers.
"It is because of the highhandedness of the Modi government that the issue of these farmers is not being addressed," SAD spokesman Balwant Singh Ramoowalia said while blaming the Gujarat chief minister for not addressing the grievances of 1,000 farmer families settled in Naliya tehsil of Kutch. These farmers with roots in Punjab are settled in Gujarat since the 1960s and most of the families are Sikhs.
"According to the law of the land, these farmers can't be divested of their rights," the senior SAD leader said.
Meanwhile, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh GK also targeted Modi, saying, "It is shocking that the Gujarat government, despite having lost the case in the high court, has moved the Supreme Court filing an appeal. Modi should ask his officials not to pursue the case in the Supreme Court against the hard-working farmers."Some of these families are in Delhi to pursue their case listed in the Supreme Court on August 27.
"Modi is aspiring to the post of Prime Minister and there should be efforts to unite people and make their living peaceful and easy wherever they are living in the country," GK, president of the Delhi unit of SAD, said.
The SAD attacking Modi assumes significance as the SAD is not only part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by the BJP but also in Punjab the SAD and the BJP are alliance partners.
"I am in touch with these farmers since 2010 when the Gujarat government divested them of the ownership rights of agricultural land," Ramoowalia said. These farmers were divested of their land, as per the provisions of the Bombay-Vidarbha Tenancy Act of 1960 and were termed as outsiders by the Gujarat government.
Subsequently, the farmers moved the Gujarat high court, which on June 22, 2012, restored their right, but the Gujarat government has moved the Supreme Court. Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, according to Ramoowalia, had also written to Modi last year for amicably resolving the issue.
Ramoowalia said these farmers had moved to Kutch on the insistence of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and had their roots in Amritsar, Bathinda, Faridkot, Ferozepur and Hisar. They own about 45,000 acres of land in Kutch and grow fine-quality cotton feeding the cotton mills in Gujarat.