The residents of Bangawan village panchayat in Anuppur district have decided to boycott the upcoming panchayat polls in protest against the state government's "indifference" to the impending eviction of thousands of residents of Rajnagar town.
Rajnagar forms a chunk of the village panchayat area, and about 30,000 of its residents are facing eviction after a high court ruling. Those leading the agitation against the eviction said when they were not able to make the government act to avoid their displacement, there was no reason to vote.
"We have been casting vote for the past five decades, but what do we get in return? Within a few days, thousands of people of this panchayat will come on road. Our houses and establishments have been declared illegal and we would be evicted from the place," said Abhishek Singh, a resident of Rajnagar town.
"We have lost faith in the democratic process as the state government has totally ignored us...Despite chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's announcement of converting gram panchayat into nagar panchayat to legalise our establishment, nothing happened for us," he added.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court has ordered evacuation of the entire Rajnagar town on the grounds that the land belongs to the South Eastern Coal Limited (SECL) and has been encroached upon by private persons, institutions and the government.
Bangawan sarpanch Ramnarayan, too, doesn't seem happy with the response. "The last date of filing nominations for panchayat elections is January 7, but till now nobody has filed nomination papers. Even on the last day, nobody would file nomination as the village is at the brink of desolation and people's lives are in danger. If being a sarpanch, I can't rehabilitate or save the voters from eviction, what is the need to contest the polls."
However, Anuppur collector MS Parmar said, "Some people told me about the boycott but the district administration is trying to convince people because I don't think their purpose would be served through this mode of protest. (If the protest continues) the election will be deferred and held in June."