A report by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), the nation's minority rights watchdog, has said the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government had "prima facie" discriminated against the state's 500-member Sikh community in Kutch by ordering them to sell their land and return to Punjab because they were not Gujaratis, citing the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948.
The commission has strongly disapproved of the Gujarat government's interpretation that only Gujarati farmers could own or buy land in the state under the Act, a move which could dispossess 500 farmers, while their land accounts have already been frozen.
In his report, commission member Ajaib Singh, after a field visit on June 24-28, said, "There appears to be discrimination against Sikh agriculturalists by the Gujarat government". The report quoted Singh's statement that "Modi, who has the habit of suppressing and terrorising the minorities of Gujarat, was in this case targeting and victimising the Sikh farmers of Kutch".
The minority commission said the order of the state government, asking farmers to sell their land and return to Punjab, was struck down unanimously in the Gujarat high court unanimously, but the state government had now challenged this verdict in the Supreme Court. The commission itself could not do much since the issue was under judicial consideration, the report said.
In a recommendatory letter to Modi, the commission has asked the Gujarat government to accept the verdict of the high court. He also requested him to administer a national minority scholarship programme and urgently set up a state minorities commission.
Singh has also written to Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to intervene in the matter.
"This is indeed very discriminatory," the NCM member told HT.He said Sikhs told him during his field visit that the community had migrated to Kutch after being invited by former prime minister late Lal Bahadur Shastri, who felt these swathes of white marshy land should be inhabited as a buffer against invasion from the sea.