A group of farmers allegedly bulldozed seven rooms belonging to the landless labourers at Gagomahal village in Ajnala sub-division of the district on late Saturday night.
Luckily, no one was staying in the rooms as they were using these for keeping their milch cattle or for storing fodder and grain.
As the JCB demolished one room after the other, the helpless labourers watched from a distance, fearing for their lives. The accused were reportedly led by Kulwant Singh and his son Nishan Singh, both residents of Gagomahal.
“The attackers even fired shots in the air, hurled abuses and threatened us. We were scared and could not confront them", alleged Sulakhan Singh, an affected resident.
Sulakhan claimed that since Kulwant Singh was a staunch Akali supporter, police were reluctant to take action against him.
After getting information on phone, the activists of Pendu Mazdoor Union immediately rushed to the village.
However, seven rooms had been demolished by then and the trees planted in the vicinity were uprooted.
“When we reached, we saw tractor-trolleys moving the debris and building material. Some uprooted trees were cut and taken away,” said Dharmender Ajnala, state committee member of Pendu Mazdoor Union.
Despite being informed, the police arrived on the spot when the accused had left. The Gagomahal police chowki was informed in the night about the incident besides conveyi ng a message to Ajnala DSP Sohan Singh.
“The police arrived at midnight and made no attempt to round up the accused. There were around 70-80 persons involved in the incident. We have named 26 persons to the police,” said Dharmender.
On Sunday, the aggrieved families along with the members of Pendu Mazdoor Union and Kirti Kisan Union staged a dharna in front of the Gagomahal police post.
The dharna was lifted late in the evening after Ajnala DSP gave them an assurance that the culprits would be arrested soon. Ajnala DSP Sohan Singh said the police arrived on the scene well in time and prevented the situation from taking an ugly turn.
“When the police arrived, those demolishing the homes started fleeing. This is the reason why we could not arrest them,” the DSP claimed.
He said a case under Sections 447, 427, 148 and 149 of the IPC has been registered against unidentified persons. He assured that arrests would be made very soon.
Swinder Singh, district president of Pendu Mazdoor Union said a number of incidents of forced occupation on common village land had come to the notice of late.
A union member said the accused were trying to take possession of land (measuring 18 kanals and 12 marlas) which in revenue records is listed as “ghara tha” or common land used for dumping cow dung and other household waste.
In 2008, 12 kanals and 18 marlas of the 'ghara tha' was allotted to landless families for construction of houses here.
“With the government acting tough against the occupation of dried-up ponds and other panchayat properties, common land in villages is shrinking. Therefore, politically influential farmers are now turning to common land reserved for dumping cow dung,” said Dharmender.
He said similar cases had occurred in Bhittewad and Brara villages in Amritsar district in December. In Bhittewad, some residents had tried to occupy a plot measuring 19 marlas which was earmarked as 'ghara tha'. In both cases, the activists of Pendu Mazdoor Union had resisted the action.
“Those who indulge in such acts are members of the ruling Akali party or are well connected with the local MLAs. The police refrain from taking action against them,” he added.