Families anxious as men still away from Bhatta-Parsaul

May 19th, 2011 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi Bhatta-Parsaul (Greater Noida), May 19 (IANS) Most men of this village who fled after clashes with the police have still not returned home, fearing brutal retaliation by authorities for daring to protest land acquisition, even as senior district officials are camping here as a confidence building measure.

Security personnel are camping outside the village, some 70 km from Delhi, and locals have suddenly found themselves living in the epicentre of protests against land acquisition in Uttar Pradesh.

The women, children and elderly sit outside their huts, reluctant to talk to journalists.

Gautam Budh Nagar District Magistrate Deepak Agrawal and the state’s Agriculture Minister Chaudhary Laxmi Narayan are camping in the village, trying hard to soothe the anxious villagers.

“Police will not be allowed to book innocent farmers,” Agrawal told the village panchayat Thursday.

Bhatta-Parsaul hit the headlines May 7 when four people, including two policemen, were killed when villagers clashed with policemen for higher compensation for their lands acquired by the Uttar Pradesh government for developmental projects.

Most men between 18 and 55 years fled their homes following the incident, fearing a crackdown by security forces.

Some returned after assurances by authorities, but most are still underground.

“My two brothers, Satya Pal and Randheer, and their families are with our relatives in Bulandshahr. They have refused to come back till the normalcy restored in the area,” said Bhikki Singh, who returned to the village after assurances by district officials.

“Public transport has not yet been restored and nearest towns of Jhajhar and Dankaur are still not accessible. Life has come to a virtual standstill. The local grocery shops are closed, and we are totally dependent on just rotis,” a woman said.

Lala, in his 20s, said villagers were still insecure as several people who were picked up by the police for questioning have not returned home.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi Monday took eight farmers from the area to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and alleged that women had been raped and people had found 74 heaps of ashes with dead bodies inside after the violence May 7.

He also handed over pictures of burnt bodies, ashes with bones and ransacked houses to the prime minister and later to the media.

However, as media reports and political opponents accused Gandhi of “exaggerating the situation”, the Congress jumped to his rescue, saying he was only reiterating what the villagers had told him.

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