The Punjab government on Wednesday pressed into service its advocate general to provide legal support to Sikh farmers of the Kutch area who are fighting against the Gujarat government's eviction orders.
On Monday, Sikh farmers had filed a statement in the Supreme Court on the Narendra Modi government's special leave petition (SLP) challenging the Gujarat high court order for not evicting farmers from Kutch.
This action of the Akali-BJP government, which projects itself as a pro-farmer regime, is also aimed at stealing the Punjab Congress' thunder. State Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa had recently arranged a meeting of these farmers with
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had assured them legal help and also asked union law minister Kapil Sibal to provide assistance. "No help from the PM has reached us so far," said Surinder Singh Bhullar, a farmer from Kutch, who is camping in Delhi these days.
Punjab advocate general Ashok Aggarwal on Wednesday left for Delhi to meet the Sikh farmers who are putting up at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib in the Capital.
Talking to HT on the phone, Aggarwal said, "My job is to give legal help to the farmers. I think my role would begin when the Supreme Court starts hearing the case. The lawyer engaged by the farmers had filed a statement in the apex court. I will step in when the arguments begin."
A Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader told HT, "The decision to support farmers of Kutch would not affect the coalition ties between the SAD and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Our party is supporting the cause of Sikh farmers who left Punjab to settle in Kutch decades ago."
The SAD might have announced that it would take up the case with Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, but the latter has already declared that he would let the law take its own course.
"Different governments make announcements which suit them. We would contest our case to the best of our ability," an affected farmer from Kutch told HT.
In its 22-page statement filed on Monday, Sikh farmers from Kutch told the Supreme Court that the Agricultural Land (Vidharba region and Kutch area) Act, 1958, nowhere said that agriculturists from other states could not buy land in Gujarat.
Seeking the dismissal of the Gujarat government's appeal with costs, the statement added that any Indian agriculturist could buy land in the state.
Quoting provisions of the Act, the district collector of Kutch had in 2010 frozen land rights of about 1,000 farmers settled in Kutch, mostly Sikhs who migrated from Punjab. The farmers had approached the Gujarat high court, which set aside the collector's order, following which the Gujarat government filed an SLP in the Supreme Court.