From Bhatta Parsaul, Rahul takes forward campaign against Mayawati (Intro Roundup)

July 5th, 2011 - 11:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi Nangla Bhattauna (Uttar Pradesh), July 5 (IANS) Smartly side-stepping the Mayawati government’s refusal for a farmers rally, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi landed unannounced at Bhatta-Parsaul in Greater Noida early Tuesday for a march against land acquisition that took him across several villages in the sweltering heat. Hundreds of people turned up to meet the Gandhi scion.

Coincidentally, the Congress general secretary’s padyatra came on a day the Supreme Court slammed the state as the biggest land grabber in the context of the land acquisitions in Uttar Pradesh. Gandhi’s march was clearly aimed at giving the Congress an edge with an eye to the crucial elections to the state assembly next year.

Gandhi surprised the Mayawati government by reaching Bhatta-Parsaul village at 6 a.m. Tuesday and in teh sweltering heat of the day embarked on a march through neighbouring villages in the western part of the state.

In starched, white kurta-pyjama and white Nike sneakers, the Congress general secretary displayed the confidence of a seasoned campaigner. A large number of police and commandos followed him.

Also accompanying him were a large number of villagers — who have been protesting for weeks against what they say is the forced takeover of their lands by the Uttar Pradesh government.

“I am listening to you, I am with you,” the Congress general secretary told a gathering in this village in the lucrative Greater Noida belt, about 60 km from the Indian capital, on the first day of his proposed march that is expected to culminate in Aligarh July 9 with a “kisan mahapanchayat (farmers’ rally)”.

The venue of the rally was shifted to Aligarh after the party was denied permission to hold it in Bhatta-Parsaul.

Gandhi walked 12 km from the twin villages of Bhatta-Parsaul - the epicentre of a farmers’ agitation against land acquisition and inadequate compensation for acquired land - and reached Nangla Bhattauna.

“I have come to you. I am listening to you. I am with you… I went to Bhatta-Parsaul to know the truth. Sitting in Delhi, I cannot know the truth… land acquisition is taking place from here to Agra,” Gandhi, 41, said.

He took six hours to cover the 12 km distance. In all, Gandhi covered five villages and 19 km Tuesday. He visited Akhepur, Mirzapur, Rosa, Rustampur, Bhypur and Nagla-Hukum Singh villages.

Four people, including two policemen, were killed in violence in Bhatta-Parsaul in May.

Gandhi’s visit to rural areas of Greater Noida coincided with the Supreme Court making critical observation in a case relating to land acquisition by the Mayawati government in Greater Noida.

The court said that the state was the biggest land grabber, depriving farmers of their livelihood for generations.

The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly Tuesday said that farmers’ lands were being acquired in the name of public interest and being given to builders to construct luxury houses, which had nothing to do with the requirement of the common man.

Gandhi’s visit to the area comes about two months after he was detained during a visit to Bhatta-Parsaul immediately after the police violence in May.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) termed Gandhi’s march as a “political drama. ”

Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said Gandhi was visiting areas where atrocities had been committed against farmers. However, he did not reply to a query if Congressmen had been asked to keep away from Gandhi’s march. “I have no information,” Ahmed said.

Party general secretary Digvijay Singh, who is in charge of the party’s affairs in Uttar Pradesh, earlier said that party workers need not show up during Gandhi’s march to mark their presence before him and should come for the rally in Aligarh.

He said Gandhi’s march from Bhatta-Parsaul was aimed at getting first-hand information from people on the land acquisition policy of the Mayawati government.

“When and where he will go, we do not have information,” Singh told reporters.

In between, Gandhi stopped for a two-hour break at the house of farmer Rajbir Singh.

According to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, he had a simple, home-cooked meal comprising roti, vegetables and moong-masoor dal. And then he took some rest.

Wherever he halted, he would address what were billed as “kisan panchayats”. Here the villagers poured out their woes. Gandhi heard them in silence, occasionally cuddling a young boy or a girl.

Gandhi halted for the night at Rampur village. He is scheduled to proceed to Jevar in Gautam Budh Nagar early Wednesday morning.

The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party issued a statement, on behalf of Chief Minister Mayawati, warning that her party would disrupt the proceedings of parliament if the Congress fails to introduce the amendment bill on land acquisition during the monsoon session of parliament.

The BSP release also challenged Gandhi to cite one example of a Congress-ruled state where the land-acquisition policy was more farmer-friendly than in Uttar Pradesh.

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