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Five killed in police firing on agitating farmers


Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh) : Five people were killed Wednesday in firing by police on farmers protesting ‘inadequate compensation’ for their land being acquired in Uttar Pradesh’s booming Greater Noida region bordering the national capital. About 40 people, including a dozen policemen, were injured when the farmers clashed with the police.

About 2,000 farmers had gathered outside the Greater Noida authority office to demand higher compensation for land acquired in previous years for infrastructure projects, including industries and an international airport which has now been shelved.

Police initially resorted to a baton-charge to disperse the farmers, who had intensified their agitation and wanted to storm the authority office.

When the baton-charge failed to quell the angry farmers who suddenly made a charge, police opened fire in which five farmers were killed.

In a retaliatory move, the farmers began pelting the cops with rocks and other handy missiles, leaving a few, including Noida senior superintendent of police R.K. Chaturvedi, injured.

An official spokesman, however, put the casualties at three.

“Three persons were killed in the clash provoked by some anti-social elements,” V.S.Pandey, principal secretary to the chief minister, told mediapersons.

Chaturvedi, who sustained injuries on his arms and legs, said the police opened fire only when the situation went out of control.

He said it were the villagers who first fired at the police with their illegal pistols. The police then responded by firing in the air. “Action will be taken against the people who were responsible for this,” Chaturvedi said.

Initially there were about 250 policemen at the spot, but an additional force of 300 policemen was called to the site when the situation turned grim.

The violent mob pelted stones at the policemen and set at least ten vehicles ablaze, which included two Tata Sumo vans, tractors and government vehicles.

The mob also tried to set a nearby hospital on fire.

Two people died at the spot due to excessive bleeding caused after being hit with stones.

The injured were admitted to the Kailash Hospital in Noida, where about twenty people were stated to be critical late Wednesday evening, attending doctors said.

Even as the fury spread to adjacent roads connecting Greater Noida Authority’s office, a posse of policemen cordoned off the authority’s office by forming a protective ring around it.

The police also tried to pull out some villagers who were hiding in the nearby houses immediately after firing.

While clarifying that the Greater Noida incident had nothing to do with Chief Minister Mayawati’s native village Badalpur where farmers had earlier protested against “poor compensation” for similarly acquired land, Pandey claimed that the demand of the protesting farmers was “unjustified”.

“As against the officially settled compensation at the rate of Rs.406 per sq metre, we paid the farmers at the rate of Rs.850 per sq metre. But apparently under instigation by some interested parties, they began demanding several times higher payment,” said Pandey.

“When they were prevented from gate crashing into the Greater Noida office, they started pelting stones on the cops, many of whom were injured. Finally driven against the wall, they had to use force (firing) to disperse the crowds,” he added.

Addressing a press conference later, former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav criticised the Mayawati government for “unleashing terror” on innocent and peacefully agitating farmers.

He said that nearly 200 villages and thousands of farmers were affected by Mayawati’s “anti-farmer” land acquisition policy.

He condemned the government for taking away rich agricultural land of farmers for a song and allegedly selling the same to the big developers and builders on a fat premium.

While refuting the official claim about only three deaths, Mulayam gave out the names of five farmers who he claimed had died in the firing.