Explained: Who are the peasants from Punjab and Haryana who are fighting a legal battle for land in Kuch?

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya, Edited by Explained Desk | Ahmadabad |

Updated: December 15, 2020 8:45:25 PM

On Tuesday PM Modi interacted with farmers in Kutch, including those from Punjab, during his visit to the border district to lay the foundation stones of several projects. (Source: Twitter / @ANI)

A group of farmers in Kuch who are from Punjab and Haryana and have settled here are involved in a court battle with the Gujarat government over their agricultural land. The dispute dates back to 2010, when many farmers said records of their lands had been frozen because they were not natives of Gujarat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state chief minister at the time.

On Tuesday PM Modi interacted with farmers in Kutch, including those from Punjab, during his visit to the border district to lay the foundation stones of several projects.

Who are the peasants fighting a legal battle for land in Kuch?

A group of about 60 farmers from Kutch have been waging a court battle over the past decade to preserve their agricultural land. These peasants are mostly natives of Punjab and Haryana who either bought land or received it through government donation. However, stressing that because they were not native Gujaratis, the state government froze records of land belonging to them and about 700 other farmers in Kuch. Of the total 784 farmers whose land registers have been frozen, 245 are from Punjab and Haryana. The rest come from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Most of them are Sikhs.

How did they come to Kuch by chance?

During the India-Pakistan War in 1965, the Pakistani army managed to enter Kuch. After the war, however, then-Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri proposed to inhabit border areas in the district to further secure the border. Government has encouraged settlements in Kuch by giving land to people and distributing cash gifts to help them buy cattle, and so on. In response, a considerable number of families from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra came to Kuch. The state government allocated land to a total of 550 individuals between 1965 and 1984. Of these, 390 were Sikhs, some of whom came to Punjab after the Partition. They began to exploit groundwater to irrigate their crops in Kutch and caused a revolution in agriculture in this semi-arid district. Relatives and friends of these early migrants followed, as land in Kuch is abundant (Kuch spreads over 45,000 square kilometers and thus represents 23 percent of the total geographical area of ​​Gujarat) and relatively cheaply. 📣 Follow Explicit Explained in Telegram

What did the Gujarat government do in 2010?

On October 22, 2010, a Kutch collector served notices to 784 farmers, informing them that records of their land had been frozen because they were not allowed to hold land in Gujarat because they were not residents of Gujarat. The government cited a circular from 1973 which stated that only native Gujaratis can buy agricultural land in the state. Freezing records of their land meant that the owners of such land could not sell it or hand it over in the name of their heirs through mutation entries. Also, Forms 7-12 and 8-A of records of such land came with riders, making their owners ineligible to use a bank loan, and so on. In short, the freeze meant that third-party interests in the land could not be created. The 784 land accounts included those that the government gave land to. Land registers of 52 farmers, who were able to prove it by documents that they legally owned land given to them by the government, were later frozen.

Where is the legal battle now?

After courts of revenue authorities, the matter reached the Gujarat High Court (HC). In July 2011, a single HC bench ruled in favor of the state government, but the peasants challenged that verdict before a larger court. In June 2012, HC’s larger bench ruled in favor of the farmer. Accordingly, the state government approached the Supreme Court in 2012 with a special leave request, praying that no third party interest be created in the country in question. The SC gave that prayer. However, the government’s petition challenging Gujarat HC’s verdict is still pending.

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