M A I N   N E W S

Farmers set ablaze police station
Curfew clamped on Anoopgarh
Vishal Joshi
Tribune News Service

Anoopgarh (Sriganganagar), October 28
Agitating farmers today set ablaze a police station and staged protests in Sriganganagar district where four persons were killed in police firing yesterday, prompting authorities to extend curfew to more areas.

Demanding release of more water for irrigation and protesting against the police firing, farmers set on fire a police station 20 km near Rawala town, the scene of yesterday’s violence, the police said.

However, no casualty was reported as no one was present in the police station, they said.

Hundreds of farmers also demonstrated outside the Sriganganagar collectorate.

As tension continued, curfew was imposed as a precautionary measure in Anoopgarh town.

Fresh incidents of violence were reported from Khajuwala village where agitated farmers attacked government buildings and offices. The authorities brought the situation under control.

Situation continued to be tense but under control as the Army held flag marches in trouble-torn areas. Curfew has been so strictly enforced that even mediapersons could not get passes to visit affected areas today. No movement was allowed in Gharsana and Rawala villages and nearby areas.

Farmers in this interior part of the Rajasthan are an agitated lot. Those who were well-off some years ago, have virtually turned paupers. Villagers who owned more than 20 acres are forced to do menial jobs to make both ends meet. People of this now tense village, after the killing of four persons (unconfirmed reports say five) in Gharsana and Ravala villages yesterday, blame the BJP government for not taking their problems seriously.

When this correspondent visited the visibly tense villages of the area this morning, sleepless villagers were waiting for the dawn for their next step. Talking to The Tribune, Mr Ujagar Singh, in his late 70s, said he was worried about the future of farming in the area. He said over the past few years the farms that fell under the jurisdiction of Anoopgarh tehsil were not getting sufficient water.

“We have been demanding the release of more water from the Indira canal for our area to make things better,” he said.

The border area is mainly dominated by the Punjabis who cultivate narma variety of cotton and wheat. Most of the villagers are those who have settled down here after Partition or sold their landholdings in Punjab to buy cheap land in this belt. The land that was once mainly barren or was having the wild growth was converted into fertile land by the hardwork of the new “settlers”, he said.

Mr Jagar Singh, a villager of Anoopgarh, said a number of farmers of the area in the absence of adequate irrigational facilities were now working as daily-wage workers. “They are forced to do so due to poor agriculture produce because of the unavailability of sufficient water,” he said.

Interestingly, police officials term it as a politicalisation of an issue and not a mere farmers’ agitation. An official, on the condition of anonymity, told The Tribune that the way incidents took place yesterday in which the office and the residence of the SDM and the Tehsildar were ransacked and burnt, there were clear indications that “anti-social” elements with political patronage had “hijacked the farmers agitation”.

“This was certainly a handiwork of some unscrupulous elements and we are investigating the matter,” said a senior official on duty near Anoopgarh village.

Meanwhile, the administration has deployed the police and the BSF to control the situation. Yesterday’s riots between the farmers and the police have converted the entire area into a cantonment.

According to police officials, there were intelligence reports that the farmers were planning to gather again to protest against the yesterday’s police firing. The police has directed the arms licence holders to deposit their weapons with the police.

No untoward incident had been reported from Gharsana and Rawala villages till the time of filing of the story. Several senior officials from armed forces and state police are camping in the area. Attempts to contact the District Magistrate, Mr S.M. Meena, and the SP, Mr Sunil Dutt, proved futile.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |