Thousands of farmers and supporters of Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh clashed violently with police as they laid siege to the Ganga canal regulators here in a bid to disrupt water supply to parts of Delhi. They were protesting government attempts to evict their leader from his official bungalow in the Capital.
Far from the agitation site, the matter took on political colours with Congress leader and Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda defending Singh, a UPA ally, and terming the government action to evict him “discourteous”.
Last week, the NDA government had snapped power and water supply to Singh’s 12, Tuglak Road bungalow to force his eviction as he is no longer a minister or an MP. The protesters want the bungalow turned into a memorial to his late father, former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh.
Around 10,000-12,000 protesters from the RLD and Bharatiya Kisan Union clashed with police and pelted them with stones in the Ganga canal area of Murad Nagar as they attempted to shut water supply to Delhi’s Soniya Vihar and Bhagirathi plants. The police retaliated with teargas and rubber bullets. The clash left 50-60 people injured while dozens were detained.
The mob climbed atop the two regulators, cut security grills, lowered the water gates and barged into a water plant, which they ransacked despite prohibitory orders being in place, sources said. They also blocked traffic on national highway 58.
Police machinery roped in from Meerut, Gautam Budh Nagar and Ghaziabad were mute spectators as the farmers — who play a major role in western UP politics — went on the rampage, which was finally broken up at around 4.45pm. “We will lodge FIRs and book them under the National Security Act,” said Ghaziabad district magistrate Vimal Kumar Sharma.
“This bungalow is associated with the memory of my father for far too long. Farmers from across the country keep visiting it. For them it’s a landmark building… they felt humiliated by the government’s action… their anger is justified,” said Singh.
The RLD leader said that when there can be memorials for Lal Bahadur Shastri and Kanshi Ram, there can be one for his father too. “It is the wish of the people.” He added that he never intended to overstay. “I had just sought time to vacate by September 24 but they did not respond. They should have shown some sensitivity. After BJP lost power in 2004, several of its leaders continued to occupy bungalows meant for ministers.”
In his letter to urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Hooda said the ministry’s attempt to evict Singh from the house he has lived in for 32 years had caused “unwarranted hardship”.
Hooda’s defence of Singh is being seen by many as an attempt to tap the Jat vote since his state goes to polls next month and his government is fighting heavy anti-incumbency.
Naidu wrote back to Hooda: “It was only... after 80 days of unauthorized stay by Ajit Singh that power and water supply was disconnected. It is clear Ajit Singh has been given ample opportunity and time to vacate... You did not check the facts before writing to me.”
A Delhi Jal Board statement said water supply was disrupted but wouldn’t affect households as it had “made alternate arrangements”. The Murad Nagar regulators supply 282 and 200 cusecs of water to the Soniya Vihar and Bhagirathi plants, respectively, which in turn feed south and east Delhi localities.
Inputs from HTC, New Delhi